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9691: Haiti-Poverty (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By TOMAS VAN HOUTRYVE
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 21i (AP) -- Josel Jean has never heard of
Thanksgiving. Many days, he makes just enough money to buy himself one meal
and struggles to feed his wife and two children.
As Americans prepare for one of the biggest feasts of the year,
residents of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, are left
with little hope of conquering hunger and disease. Disputed elections have
held up more than $500 million in desperately needed aid.
"I'll eat anything I can get," said Jean, 25, as he pulls an empty crab
trap out of the polluted Port-au-Prince Bay. On a good day, Jean can earn
about $12 but often he goes home empty-handed.
According to the United Nations, 60 percent of Haiti's 8.2 million
people are undernourished. The average number of calories available to a
Haitian per day is 1,977, nearly half the 3,754 calories a U.S. resident
gets, according to the World Health Organization
In Jean's seaside neighborhood of Cite Soleil, the bakery has no
electricity or running water. Pigs are raised on garbage and human waste,
but their meat is too precious to be eaten by the impoverished residents.
The pork is sold at the market for cheaper staples like cornmeal and rice
that provide more days of nourishment.
Sanitation problems deepen the misery. Only 26 percent of Haiti's
population has access to basic services such as garbage and sewage
disposal, according to the WHO.
The lack of basic services has sparked mass protests since October when
Organization of American States-mediated talks between President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's governing Lavalas Family Party and the 15-party
Convergence opposition alliance broke down.
The 18-month standoff, which stems from flawed local and legislative
elections swept by Aristide's Lavalas party last year, has caused foreign
donors to block millions of dollars in aid until a consensus is reached and
some of the results are revised.
Residents in neighborhoods like Jean's have set up flaming-tire
barricades and blocked roads to demand the basic services that Aristide had