In the News
Death toll from storms reportedly near 800
(Saturday, Oct. 4) The death toll from a string of hurricanes and tropical storms in Haiti has risen to nearly 800 people, an official with the Haitian Red Cross told the media. The official said the death toll could climb higher because many people were still missing.
Haiti struck again by tropical storm; more deaths and destruction
(Wednesday, Sept. 3) Haitian families scrambled onto rooftops and screamed for help Tuesday in a city flooded by Tropical Storm Hanna, as U.N. peacekeepers and rescue convoys tried in vain to reach them. Haitians clutched mattresses, chairs and other belongings as they slogged through waist-high floodwaters. The known death toll in northern Haiti was 13.
Hanna's maximum sustained winds slipped to 65 mph (100 kph) as the storm struck the north and west coasts of Haiti.
Heavy rain from the storm's outer bands fell relentlessly in Haiti, a country still recovering from drenchings by Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay in the past two weeks. In all, floods and mudslides from the three storms have killed more than 100 people, as Haiti's deforested hills melted away in the torrential rains.
Hurricane blamed for at least 22 deaths
(Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008) Tropical Storm Gustav was pulling away from Hispaniola on Wednesday, leaving at least 22 dead in its wake in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, officials said. Gustav was a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday.
The storm killed 14 people in Haiti, said Pierre Louis Pinchinat, deputy director of Haiti's Civil Protection Directorate. Authorities said eight more were killed in a mudslide triggered by heavy rain in a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic neighborhood.
Pinchinat said many areas of Haiti are cut off from aid workers because roads and bridges are washed out. At least 300 people are in a shelter in one region, he said, and others are in shelters across the country.
"It has been raining, and it continues to rain," said Michaele Gedeon, president of the Haitian Red Cross. "We have a saturation that is causing floods in several parts of the country. She said 180 people were in a shelter set up in a mayor's office in southeast Haiti. The storm has destroyed the roofs of more than 100 homes, Gedeon said.
These numbers often are far below the actual number of damaged buildings. In Haiti, storms wreak havoc on areas from which the media never hears reports.
Gustav was expected to produce rainfall of 6 to 12 inches over Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Hurricane Gustav slams into Haiti
(Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008) Hurricane Gustav dumped torrential rains across southern Haiti on Tuesday, killing at least one man and threatening crops amid protests over high food prices.
Trees toppled as the storm lingered for hours over Haiti’s poor, deforested southern peninsula, and water levels were rising in banana, bean and vegetable fields. One man was killed in a landslide in the mountain town of Benet, civil protection director Marie Alta JeanBaptiste told Radio Metropole.
“If the rain continues, we’ll be flooded,” U.N. food consultant Jean Gardy said from the southeastern town of Marigot.
Hundreds of people in coastal Les Cayes ignored government warnings to seek shelter, instead throwing rocks to protest the high cost of living in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Witnesses said U.N. peacekeepers used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Haiti is a tinderbox because of soaring food prices, which in April led to deadly protests and the ouster of the nation’s prime minister. It was difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage to the nation’s crops on Tuesday because of Haiti’s poor infrastructure and faulty communications.
Gustav roared ashore Tuesday afternoon near the city of Jacmel with top sustained winds near 90 mph. Heavy rains pelted the area as winds bent palm trees and kicked up surf along waterfronts of dilapidated wooden buildings.
Forty miles (65 kms) to the north, residents in the capital wrapped themselves in plastic sheeting against the rain and wind as they ran home in advance of the storm. Businesses closed early, and stranded travelers mobbed the American Airlines counter at the airport
after the airline canceled all flights.
“I knew it was coming, but I was hoping to be out before it came,” said Jody Stoltzfus, a 27-year-old missionary who had planned a visit home to Lancaster, Pa.
More than 4,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the Dominican Republic, where the streets of Santo Domingo were flooded.
Gasoline prices soar in Haiti
(Friday, June 27, 2008) Cuts in Haitian gasoline subsidies pushed the price of fuel to $6.14 a gallon on Thursday, further burdening an impoverished people, as the government redirected money to other programs.
An 80-cents-per-gallon increase was felt immediately in the struggling country where 80 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.
Gasoline subsidies were implemented by President Rene Preval to prevent instability after April riots over the high cost of food that left at least seven dead and resulted in the dismissal of the country's prime minister, who has not yet been replaced.
But the cash-strapped government could not maintain assistance that totaled an estimated $15 million over three months while also providing agricultural assistance and other programs meant to combat the country's ongoing food crisis, Haitian economist Kesner Pharel told The Associated Press.
Preval could “pay some political price” for allowing the increases, Pharel was quoted as saying.
Port-au-Prince's public taxis, or “tap-taps,” raised fares 31 cents per ride to cope with fuel costs, prompting arguments with passengers. A tap-tap owner said passengers “don't want to pay. We have to fight with them” to collect a fare to ride in a metal frame built onto the back of a rickety pickup truck.
The higher prices are also increasing expenses for international organizations, as they patrol the country's streets in armored vehicles and transport food aid to remote rural communities. There are 9,000 U.N. peacekeeping soldiers in Haiti, where they have been serving since 2004.
UNICEF report: Kids' lives are nightmares in unstable nations
(Saturday, June 21, 2008) More than 50 children have been abducted in Haiti since the beginning of the year, adding to a trend of kidnappings in countries affected by violence, according to a United Nations Children's Fund report.
In countries torn by war, like the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Haiti, food shortages and poverty have added to the already hellish conditions children live in. The youngest in unstable countries have become primary targets for armed groups who see them as commodities, the agency said.
In Haiti, UNICEF and local officials report that kidnapped children are being raped, tortured and murdered in Haiti, according to a news story released by CNN.com. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti has been working with the national police force to try to halt such crimes. They suspect that criminal gangs are responsible.
The agency reports that as many as 2,000 children a year are trafficked to the Dominican Republic, often with their parents' support. And about 1,000 children are working as spies, messengers or soldiers for armed gangs in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Earlier in the month, a demonstration was held in Haiti's capital after a 16-year-old hostage was murdered and other hostages had been raped and lynched, including infants, UNICEF said.
The agency urged officials to take action.
“There is no acceptable motive or rationale for these crimes, as there is no acceptable excuse that they should be allowed to continue with flagrant impunity,” UNICEF's Haiti representative, Annamaria Laurini, said in a statement.
“His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” — Malachi 4:6
First Lady Bush visits Haiti
(Thursday, March 13, 2008) U.S. first lady Laura Bush came to Haiti on Thursday to promote increased funding for AIDS patients and support education in the impoverished nation, The Associated Press reported.
Bush met with three young HIV-positive adults during her morning visit to GHESKIO, an AIDS clinic in a rundown section of Port-au-Prince, where she called on American legislators to increase funding to the U.S. Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
One of the patients, 20-year-old Mariana Pierre, read a poem for Bush: “Who will fight the most contagious weapon of ignorance? Who will change the darkness we live in into light?” Pierre asked.
Bush also met with a group of HIV-positive women who had received business loans through GHESKIO, Haiti's largest treatment center for sexually transmitted diseases. The acronym in French stands for the Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections.
Bush stopped later at a center where educators are working to reduce a 50 percent illiteracy rate.
It was the first time since Hillary Clinton arrived in 1998 that a first lady has visited Haiti.