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8714: "...no breakfast" with Frank McCourt in Haiti (fwd)

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>

July 15, 2001

One of today's postings to the Haiti e-list describes a new report by
Frank McCourt, an internationally-known poverty activist and
writer/investigator recently in Haiti for the relief organization Concern.
Among his startling remarks about intolerable living conditions in
Haiti's cities and countyside, one stands out as particularly grievous:
typically, schoolchildren have no breakfast.

Through constant appeals, begging and private donations, disaster relief
organizations such as Concern virtually keep tens of millions--perhaps
hundreds of millions--of people alive, sending abroad food, clothing and
shelter needed by these poor people and victims of war and catastrophe.
Everyone who contributes cash or in-kind expects the supplies to flow
smoothly and promptly to those in need.  In some cases, national
governments welcome the constant flow and expedite the delivery; in other
cases national governments obstruct or corrupt the process, holding
supplies hostage for various reasons or surreptitiously reselling or
distributing them for personal gain.

For the past month, American food relief donors have been telling me
that Haitian government officials have been holding huge shipments in
Port-au-Prince customs for extremely long periods without any explanation
and/or expedition to the intended non-profit distributors and starving
recipients.  According to what I have been told, neither the consignees
nor the U.S. Embassy has been able to free up these relief supplies, nor
are the shippers able to verify the conditions or whereabouts of their
shipments once they enter Haiti.  We are talking about hundreds of
thousands to millions of meal-equivalents.

What is the truth about food aid to Haiti?  How long does it take
nourishment from international donors to reach the country's
schoolchildren?  What percentage of food relief to Haiti never reaches
the intended recipients?  Why isn't there a verifiable and transparent
chain of custody for every relief shipment?  Why do donors tolerate such
a failed system?

Thank you,

Stuart M. Leiderman <leidermn@christa.unh.edu>
"Environmental Refugees and Ecological Restoration"
Environmental Response/4th World Project
c/o Natural Resources Department, James 215
University of New Hampshire-Durham 03824 USA

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001 14:30:39 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu>

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Haiti Stuns Veteran Of Poverty

Few people know poverty like Frank McCourt.  But even McCourt, whose now
classic and Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angela's Ashes" detailed a gruesome
life of Irish squalor in the mean and hungry lanes of Limerick, was
stunned on a recent visit by the desperate conditions in Haiti... <snip>

McCourt went to Haiti at the urging of the Rev. Aengus Finucane, an Irish
priest who has dedicated his life to Concern Worldwide, and whom McCourt
says is a living saint. But McCourt was not feeling very saintly the other
day, after returning from Haiti.

McCourt says Haiti's state-run school system is chaotic or nonexistent, so
in the mountains people have set up their own schools, essentially
corrugated metal sheds with no walls and benches where hundreds of kids
must walk an average of 3 miles each way.  "But none of the children I
spoke with had had any breakfast," McCourt says. "If a kid is hungry, he
doesn't learn. All he thinks of is food.... <snip>

"I've traveled to other places like Caracas and Bombay, but nothing
compares to the hopelessness I saw in Haiti," McCourt says. "[President
Jean-Bertrand] Aristide is doing his best, but his opponents just
paralyze him. So nothing filters down to the people. When it does, the
gangs of thieves usually rob it. My trip to Haiti was simply
unforgettable. The next time I hear someone complain about anything at
all, I'll tell them to shut up, you could live in Haiti."

To send contributions or to learn more about Concern Worldwide, call (800)
59CONCERN or e-mail www.concernusa.org.

Original Publication Date: 7/15/01

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Stuart M. Leiderman
Environmental Response