Ana arrived at about 5am this morning as a tropical depression, bringing a good amount of rain and some wind for about 45 minutes. It's still really dark out and raining lightly. I don't know if she will stick around all day or not. Bill's track, fortunately, remains to the north of us.
The weather means that we may not get anyone for nutrition program today. People do not like to go out in the rain because of the mud. It also gets very slippery and can be dangerous for anyone who has to walk on hilly paths, like most of our population in Fond des Blancs. To take a malnourished toddler out on a day like today would be foolish. The hard part about this is that they will not get rations if they don't come.
I am thinking about people with inadequate houses this morning, in particular my friend J. She lives in a banana leaf house that has been threatening to fall apart lately. I know everything she owns has gotten wet, but I gave her a plastic shower curtain after the last heavy rain so hopefully she was able to keep her bed, her mother, and her son dry.
I got up to close all the window louvres when I heard the heavy rain start, but I left mine open hoping that the cool air would come into my room. I have one of the warmest rooms in the residence and it stays in the high 80's at night, low to mid 90's during the day. It's 86 in here right now, and about 10 degrees cooler 15 feet away in the dining room. I cannot get any air to flow through my room no matter what doors and windows I open to get a cross draft. Oh well, I've adapted for the most part, and can stay somewhat comfortable with a fan blowing on me at all times.
Okay, looks like it's time to start the day even though it's still dark out.
PS: just walked out on the little galeri in time to watch Jean Bertrand ride his moto into the yard - with a down jacket on and the hood pulled up... have I ever said how wacky this place is? :)
My heart is a little happier today. The little one that was brought in by his grandfather last week did not show up on Tuesday as we asked. Our community liaison went out to look for them but was unable to locate their house. Today, another relative, I think an uncle, brought him in.
He looks so much better. No signs of kwashiorkor this time - all of the edema has gone. He looked absolutely miserable last week, but today he looked more interested in his surroundings, even though I couldn't get him to smile for me.
We asked the uncle if he would be responsible for bringing him in every two weeks for the nutrition recuperation program. He agreed. Sonia reassessed him for the Medika Mamba program, and we sent them away with enough rations until they return next week.
I'm cautiously optimistic. They come from quite a distance and to bring a child in for program can be a hardship. There's no way to predict for sure that they will come again, but I am happy to know that he has started to recover and that there are other caring adults involved.
"Most of us would agree that there is a serious problem vis-a-vis access to food in the developing world. According to the UN food agency, there are now more than one billion undernourished people worldwide. The need to do something about the broken food system is especially apparent in Haiti, where I have been on a working assignment with Grassroots International for the past few weeks.
Last year, before the financial crisis spun out of control, the global food crisis was front and center in the media in Haiti and around the world. Hungry rioters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding fair prices for rice and grain. Some Haitians even built a micro-industry selling patties made from mud, oil, and sugar -- an ancient remedy to help alleviate hunger pangs.
Just because the financial crisis is getting all the attention these days doesn't mean that the food crisis is any less severe. Actually, the two have much in common, arising from 30 years of failed economic and agricultural policy.
Like many other countries, Haiti was subjected to trade liberalization and privatization in the mid 1980s by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and donor countries like the U.S. During this time, U.S. agribusinesses flooded the local market with massive quantities of cheap subsidized staple foods with which Haitian peasants couldn't compete. After the large-scale imports had succeeded in paralyzing local production, prices skyrocketed. A kilo of imported rice is now worth an average day's salary in the Artibonite, a region once known as Haiti's "rice bowl."
Dumping is not unique to the Artibonite, let alone Haiti. Mexican farmers import corn from the Midwest, Indian producers often depend on Texan basmati rice, and mass-produced U.S. beef fills the shelves of Korean supermarkets. Of course, many of these countries are also exporting their own agricultural products -- but from a place of comparative, rather than competitive advantage, leaving them vulnerable to shock and speculation on the marketplace.
Unfortunately, many aid and relief programs perpetuate these trade and agriculture policies in an attempt to achieve "food security." Traditional food security, on the most basic level, is access to enough food for survival. To that end, public and private aid has invested heavily in shipments of food aid to the most vulnerable parts of the world. These policies fail to stipulate that people have a right to define their own food sources and sustainable future access -- which would amount to real food security. What happens when these cartels inevitably dry up? Food insecurity returns with vengeance.
Take the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) "Food for Work" program in Haiti as an example. USAID and international NGOs have continually implemented "Food for Work" in Haiti's most rural areas, especially during times of crises. Instead of spending their money revitalizing the agricultural sector, these programs round up small-scale farmers to build roads and clean out sewage systems. In return, they receive vouchers for imported rice, flour, and cooking oil. Since these programs usually work on a project-to-project basis, when the work runs out so does the food (not to mention that their farms were left inactive the entire time). "Charity" with the goal of "food security" is often redefining dependency in these cases, deepening the fissures between the "periphery" and "core" of wealth in the world.
But there's an alternative to this pseudo-food security -- and it is growing fast. "Food Sovereignty" is the new progressive version of "food security." Via Campesina, the more than 150 million-member strong global network of farmers and small-scale producers first coined the term in 1996. Food sovereignty rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity for international agribusiness. Instead, it puts providers and consumers at the center of decision-making. This people-centered approach is deeply rooted in local production, based on the principal rights of farmers to produce the quantity and quality of food that they need to secure their livelihoods and those of future generations.
Haiti's hopes for achieving food sovereignty are creating a buzz across the island, with local organizers seeing themselves as part of an international movement. A couple of days ago, I attended a youth forum in one of the areas that was most damaged by last year's hurricanes. The young farmers had planted a community vegetable garden and were being trained in animal husbandry. Well aware of the concept of food sovereignty, they were proud to be growing healthy food for their families and community. Globally, those most affected by the food crisis are determined to end it once and for all."
I went to the Kay Granmoun this morning to check on the paint that was delivered to finally paint the house. I was in the little depot in back with Marthe and Ones, and Marthe's son Sonson, counting all the cans and checking the colours. I had just gotten finished telling Marthe that we didn't need to open any more of the cans to actually check the colour inside, when I picked one up to move it and the top popped off.
I spilled paint all over my sandals, the floor, and my right hand (including my silver bracelet). The first thought through my mind was about the sandals. They were a gift from my sister who manages a shoe store - they cost more than $200 and are the most comfortable sandals I have. They were now a light green. I wasn't sure how I was going to get the bracelet clean either.
The troops rallied, they took my shoes, my bracelet and sat me down in the chair. While Ange Helene cleaned the paint off my feet with gas, Mariette left the kitchen to clean my shoes. Marthe disappeared with the bracelet and brought it back shining clean. Only then did I notice that Sonson was washing his hair with gas - I had spilled paint on his head!
While they were all doing this, Ones was scooping the spilled paint up and putting it back in the can. I know, I know, but here they wouldn't think of wasting it. Who cares if it has little clumps of dirt it it?
I have worked harder this week than I have since I came here. I like to be busy, but am feeling a little overwhelmed. There are huge challenges ahead, and everything I need to do has the added complication of my not being able to communicate really well. That aspect alone can be so very wearing at times.
Yesterday, I made a decision that I'm not entirely comfortable with because it wasn't the best thing for the child but we were between a rock and a hard place.
A grandfather came in with his grandson, who was identified as being malnourished with the beginnings of kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor is an acute severe form of malnutrition that usually requires the child be admitted to the hospital because complications can arise with rehabilitation. We always require that there be a caregiver for every child that is admitted to hospital. That person stays with them, feeds them, and provides the care that our nursing staff doesn't. This is not unusual at all in Haiti.
The grandfather could not stay with the child if he was admitted. He is the sole caretaker of the grandmother who is sick at home. There are 5 grandchildren living at the house. The mother is in Port au Prince and wasn't able to come to take the child to the hospital.
We had two choices - have the grandfather refuse to admit the child and let him leave with the boy, where he would undoubtedly become much sicker and die. Or we could enroll him in the Medika Mamba program and send him home with rations and good instructions. He would still be at risk of complications but he would have a better chance of survival.
There is no room here for judging the grandfather or the mother. People here live unbelievably hard lives and need to make decisions that you and I would never dream of having to make. Why did the mother leave a small child with grandparents who don't have enough food to give the children? God only knows, but I haven't been in her shoes so how can I judge? While I was sitting talking with the soft-spoken old man, he kept telling me that he loves all of his grandchildren, as though he thought we didn't believe it. It takes courage to bring a sick child to a place where you think you will be blamed for the illness.
Sonia enrolled him the program, introduced the Medika Mamba (fortified peanut butter product) and went through the instructions and the agreement with the grandfather. Both she and I made him promise to bring the little boy back on Tuesday, nutrition program day. I gave them some corn, beans, dried milk, and dried fish from our akamil and rations program.
As I watched them walk away, I prayed that he would come back but I'm not sure if he will. If you would like to, please pray for this little boy, his grandfather and their family.
This is what was waiting inside my bedroom door when I got up to make the coffee this morning. I knew I should never have mentioned spiders. I haven't had one of these in my room in over a year - thankfully.
It was the size of my palm, and could move really fast. I tried to squirt it with mosquito repellant (the Baygon was in the other room) and it ran under the clothes and bags on the back of the door. Now I had time to go get the Baygon.
Came back and chased it from behind the door to behind my little dresser, behind my wardrobe, until it showed up on the other side of the room by my desk. I managed to catch it a couple of times with the spray, which slowed it down.
Here it is praying to the Baygon/SC Johnson gods before it got smushed and flushed.
Now I have to figure out where I sprayed all the poison so I can clean it up.
We have company right now. One of the visitors came to show me that we had several ticks walking on the floor and walls in the dining room. Following them led to the door frame out to the small galeri, where the dog used to live. It looks like they are living under the wood, or maybe there has been a recent hatching - eeewwwww.
Anyway, I spent about 20 minutes spraying them with Baygon because the woman was freaking out about it, and I wanted to be a good hostess. I HATE SPRAYING POISON unless I absolutely have to - which means no large spider is safe.
I have heard that the chemicals in Baygon are banned in the US and Canada, but I am too lazy to check if that is true.
So, if they find me dead in bed in the morning, it will turn out that I did myself in in the quest for an insect free domain.
I'm a Canadian living and working in Haiti
as a nutritionist for
St. Boniface Haiti Foundation in Fond des Blancs.
Though I'm working in a professional capacity,
it is my faith that has brought