Haiti is a small Caribbean country with serious hunger problem for many years. Even in 1980s, Haiti had advanced agriculture and hunger problem was far from this country. However, the local wars and conflicts happened in 1990s changed this. Agriculture was disturbed and hunger problem became more and more serious. It has been the key problem of Haitian development so Haitian government and international society have taken lots of measures to improve this situation. The major international supports were from the US and some EU countries. Plenty of data and reports show that hunger population in Haiti has been reduced a lot. Haiti will be most likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal pronounced in 2000 by 2015.
Hunger: the key problem in Haitian development
Civilization as it is known today could not have evolved, nor can it survive, without an adequate food supply” (Borlaug, 1970). However, the hunger problem troubles a quarter of the world’s population even in these years. The problem of world hunger is serious and has affected economic development in many countries. It is common knowledge that food is the first necessity of people, but to solve the problem of feeding a population of about 6.5 billion is a big challenge to the world. Lindsay (2008) reports that food is in short supply every year because there is not enough to satisfy people’s demand in the impoverished countries. However, food security is the basis of the social development in the world. It is quite clear that a hungry country cannot make great efforts to develop the economy and improve the living standards of its people. For example, during the 3 years from 1959 to 1961, because of the food shortage, China was hesitating, virtually at a standstill, and there was little economic growth and not much of a rise in the standard of living.
Therefore, solving hunger problem is vital for world but there are still many problems demanding prompt solution in food supplies in the world, especially in some less-developed nations like Haiti. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) pronounced by the United Nations in 2000 called for the proportion of people who suffer from hunger to be halved by 2015. This paper will discuss Haiti’s struggle to reduce hunger and explain why this country can probably meet the MDG by 2015. Although many developing countries experience hunger problems, Haiti’s food crisis shows the relationship between food and social stability. This country has suffered from an extremely serious food crisis these years. Plunkett (2000) reports that agriculture accounted for 30% of Haiti’s GDP, employing two thirds of Haitian people before 1980s.
However, after the armed conflicts between Haitian opposing political factions happened in 1990s, agriculture was disrupted and hunger problem became both a rural and an urban phenomenon in Haiti. More than half of total population suffered from hunger and the percentage of rural population was higher, about 65% of people living in countryside didn’t have adequate food. Children were the population most hurt by this long-term and intractable problem. One in three Haitian children suffered malnutrition and one in eight died before the age of five as a result (Plunkett, 2000). It was a shock that so serious the Haitian hunger problem was before the new century.
Because of its food crisis, Haiti’s social stability has been severely affected. According to Gauthier (2008), riots have happened all over Haiti in past years and many people died in hunger-related riots. Another report shows that a peaceful demonstration turned into a violent incident in Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti (Chatterjee, 2008). Clearly, Haitian people have stored up discontent against their government due to the food insecurity. At the same time, unstable social order and anarchy gravely undermined Haiti’s economy, which came to a standstill. According to Plunkett (2000), the hunger problem caused depression in the market and the closure of industrial and commercial enterprises prevalent in 1990s in Haiti. The factors which caused this crisis are multiple. It is necessary to analyze the complicated factors before taking any measures to solve this problem and help Haiti achieve the MDG by 2015.
The long-term local wars at the end of last century had unfavorable impacts on grain production in Haiti so that the domestic supply of food fell short of demand. The decrease of rice production after wars also caused Haitian people’s lower income directly so more than three quarters of the rural population lived below the poverty line by 2000. There was a dramatic increase in price of stable food and this caused devaluation in Haiti. To a certain extent, Haitian people’s purchase ability decreases because of their remarkably small income and the high food price, so they cannot buy enough food (Gauthier, 2008). Chatterjee (2008) points out that the cheap rice imported from the USA caused Haitian national rice production to plummet. Because of advanced agricultural technology, American rice has many advantages such as lower price and higher nutrition. Large quantities food imports from the US in 1990s after Haitian civil wars helped people have more food but also limited the national agriculture growth in Haiti.
Besides these, according to Gauthier (2008), the increasing demand of food by local people and reductions in rice imports because of funds burden these years are also the factors that cannot be ignored. In response to the challenges of the food crisis, the Haitian government has spared no effort to help hungry people have enough to eat since 2000. According to Gauthier (2008), Haiti’s new government supports the modernization of agricultural techniques and the restoration of agricultural production. The government decides to open up more wasteland and the newly reclaimed land is now bringing forth bountiful crops. In country areas, government offers relief grain to the people who cannot afford enough food (Chatterjee, 2008). The Haitian government’s efforts are effective and have accomplished a lot but the government is short of funds to give hungry people support continually, so Haiti also takes vigorous action to promote international cooperation in food security.
Chatterjee (2008) reports Haiti has recently qualified for debt relief under the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative, and in the meantime, many of Haiti’s creditor countries, especially some developed countries, consider a compassionate discharge because of Haitian domestic food difficulties. Apparently, international aid programs from developed countries and NGOs are of extreme importance to help Haiti’s government. According to Plunkett (2000) and Gauthier (2008), Haitian food crisis has improved significantly these years, the hunger population has been reduced 32% by 2007 and the good momentum is being maintained. To meet the MDG by 2015, efforts should be continued to win aid programs from international organizations and developed countries to help Haitian people get adequate food in following years.
Some international organizations such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization can coordinate the world’s food aid to Haiti. But Haiti cannot rely on foreign assistance and they need to become self-reliant in the future, so the UN peacekeepers should play a bigger role in the social stabilization of Haiti so that a stable political can help Haiti restore its native agricultural production. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are the fundamental ways to eliminate the hunger problem in Haiti. In conclusion, with the implementation of different measures, an optimistic estimate suggests that the MDG will be achieved by 2015 in Haiti. Ample food is the basic human right in this world. The nations all over the world should join hands to safeguard the food security.
Borlaug, N. (1970). The green revolution, peace and humanity. Nobel Lectures. The Nobel Peace Prize Institute. Retrieved on November 12, 2008 from http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1970/borlaug-lecture.html/ Chatterjee, P. (2008). Haiti’s forgotten emergency. The Lancet, 372 (9639), pp. 615 – 618. Retrieved on November 12, 2008, from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(08)61259-3/ Gauthier, A. (2008). Food crisis in Haiti: exposing key problems in the process of stabilization. FRIDE Comment, 782 (45), pp. 34-38. Retrieved on November 12, 2008, from PAIS International database. Lindsay, R. (2008). Haiti on the ‘Death Plan’: Protesters decry high food prices and the savage cost of neoliberalism. The Nation, 286 (21), pp. 22-24. Retrieved on November 12, 2008 from PAIS International database. Plunkett, D. (2000). Food security in Haiti: A case study comparing the food security frameworks of the Haitian government, the European Commission and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Retrieved on November 12, 2008 from http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNACH663.pdf/