Contributing Writer

Rising food prices increase Haiti’s agony (FCN, 04-23-2008)

CHICAGO ( – The Rev. Jesse Jackson left for Haiti April 26 to tour the debt-ridden nation gripped in a food crisis. With ministers and Haitian nationals as part of his delegation, he also hoped the media would follow.

“Haiti is out of sight and out of mind,” Rev. Jackson told The Final Call. “The crisis is not getting television coverage. Most people don’t know that Haitians live on less than $2 a day and are eating mud pies baked in the sun for a staple meal.”


Haiti is among a growing number of nations suffering food shortages and high food costs. Six people recently were killed in clashes with police while protesting high food prices.

Various international delegations have traveled to the country offering support, including the Organization of American States. The World Food Bank has announced it doesn’t have enough resources to help Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and urged donors to step up immediately. The International Monetary Fund announced it is reviewing Haiti’s need for more aid.

Rev. Jackson said inflation has resulted in a $10 bag of rice costing $50 in Haiti. He said the country has the capacity to grow enough rice to feed the Caribbean, but subsidized rice grown by large U.S. farmers is destabilizing the Haitian market.

He called for the U.S. to “take the lead” on debt-forgiveness for Haiti, as well as delivering emergency food, medicine and water.

Rev. Jackson said Haiti has been a historic ally of the U.S. and played a role in its independence. But America, he said, has been allied with the repressive regimes of former dictators Francois “Papa Doc” and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and “took away” Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a democratically elected president now exiled in South Africa.

Rev. Jackson also denounced the “double-standard” U.S. policy of turning back Haitian refugees while allowing Cuban refugees sanctuary if they reach dry U.S. soil.

“We’ve ignored our ally for too long,” Rev. Jackson said. “The impact of the energy and food crises is destroying nations. We have a moral obligation to help.”

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has taken various steps to get President Bush to act.

In addition to calling for debt relief and humanitarian aid, various bills being put forth include the Haitian Protection Act, which would temporarily prevent Haitian nationals in the U.S. from being deported to the crisis situation, and a bill to open U.S. markets to Haitian textiles. Such an effort could boost employment in Haiti.