Monday, September 29, 2008

Famine Fears For Haitian City Drowning In A Sea Of Mud

THE UN World Food Program's director has flown to a Haitian city encased in mud to draw global attention to the ongoing disaster that has complicated the country's struggle to feed itself.

The program has asked for $US54 million ($65 million) to help Haiti recover from four killer storms but so far has received only $US1 million. Beginning a two-day survey of the disaster area on Friday, Josette Sheeran said concerted global action was needed to avert a famine.

Haitian President Rene Preval also pleaded for long-term help in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

The devastated coastal city of Gonaives is largely cut off from the rest of Haiti because of flooded roads and wrecked bridges.

Grey mud is still piled waist-high in homes. Tens of thousands still live in shelters and roam muddy streets looking for food.

At least 194 people were killed by the tropical storms in less than a month in Gonaives and the surrounding region, the largest share of a national death toll of 425.

Some of the muck is topsoil flushed from higher land when a river broke its banks, churned through the countryside and sliced through town before emptying into the sea.

Clouds of mosquitoes now breed in Gonaives's wet ground, raising fears that disease will spread. Children play in the muck.

Some families bale the mud from their houses, soldiering on in the stench. Mothers use muddy rags to wipe off kitchen utensils. Most residents have nowhere else to go.

The floods from hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike destroyed about 60 per cent of Haiti's food harvest.

Speaking in New York, Mr Preval said emergency aid alone would not solve Haiti's plight.

"Once this first wave of humanitarian compassion is exhausted, we will be left as always, truly alone, to face new catastrophes and see restarted, as if in a ritual, the same exercises of mobilisation," he said.

Source: Smh.Com.Au

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