WORLD

Dirt poor: eating mud to survive

KATE KENNEDY August 18 2008
WORLD

Dirt poor: eating mud to survive

KATE KENNEDY August 18 2008

Dirt poor: eating mud to survive

KATE KENNEDY

This summer has

brought some stability, new roads and more food to Haiti—but gas prices are rising again, and with them the fear of more violence.

The price of gas is already back up to where it was in April when violent riots left seven people dead. Haiti’s government had to lift fuel subsidies in late June because there weren’t enough funds to keep the plan going. Higher gas prices quickly translate into a higher cost of living for the poor because the cost of buses

and transporting food go up. To make matters worse, the food subsidies that provided the population with some relief over the summer could run out by September, leaving families who have to pay for schooling particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. “There is widespread concern that there will be more violence,” says Sarah Wilson, the Caribbean specialist for U.K.-based agency Christian Aid.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Poor infrastructure and a heavy reliance on imported food have made the country one of the hardest hit by the spike in food and fuel prices earlier this year. According to the UN, three-quarters of its population live on less than US$2 a day. Wilson is afraid the country could see more cases of starvation within the next year.

A recent report in the Guardian newspaper says that already more people are eating locally made “mud cakes”—literally patties made of mud—to alleviate hunger pains. Traditionally, pregnant women eat the clay patties to try and get more iron in their system, but children are eating them too. Dr. John Carroll, who’s spent much of the past 27 years working in children’s clinics in Haiti, says the next blow may be a water crisis. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are water riots in the future because of a lack of clean water for the vast majority of Haitians,” he says.