Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eating Dirt in Haiti [Updated]

How bad is life for the poor in Haiti? The Associated Press reports:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

The rest of the story is here.

[UPDATE: Fonkoze - Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor - is the largest micro-finance institution offering a full range of financial services to the rural-based poor in Haiti. Fonkoze is a Haitian Creole acronym for Fondasyon Kole Zepòl, which means, "The Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation". The word itself conveys the meaning, "in the midst of sharing". Fonkoze's mission is to build the economic foundations for democracy in Haiti. To learn more, or to send help, go here.]