Haiti: “The Most Desperate Enviromental Crisis on the Planet”

Haiti hillside - Floresta Brad Lewis
Haiti hillside - Floresta Brad Lewis

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 13 2008 (Tierramérica)

The worst natural disaster Haiti has ever suffered requires far-reaching solutions in order to reduce this Caribbean country’s environmental fragility, say officials and humanitarian workers.

Four major storms pounded Haiti in August and September, leaving nearly 1,000 dead and a million people homeless. International relief efforts are keeping people alive and sheltered, but the already degraded landscape has been badly battered, washing away crops, soil and the few remaining trees in many areas.

I’m not sure if things could get worse here. Haiti must be the most desperate environmental crisis on the planet,” Joel Boutroue, resident humanitarian coordinator and head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Port-au-Prince, told Tierramérica.

Boutroue was referring to the future of the poorest country in the Americas, where U.N. peace-keepers have been stationed since 2004. But he added that “the international response to the disaster is quite good.”

While pockets of severe malnutrition still exist, there is access to clean water and only about 3,000 families were without shelter as of the end of October, he said.

However, it is not possible to feed an entire country of 9.5 million people with international aid for long. Haiti cannot feed itself, and even growing 50 percent of its own food is years away, Boutroue fears. Continue reading