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Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt

Old 01-31-08, 10:02 AM
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Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5h...dpxUAD8UFQVR00

Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt
By JONATHAN M. KATZ 1 day ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too," she said.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.

At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.

Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies. Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.

Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.

Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

"Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it," said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti's health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me."








While we're concentrating on the election, the world goes on. When people talk about two americas, I don't think it is this extreme. Sad situation
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Old 01-31-08, 10:12 AM
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That is just fucked up. What about planting vegetable gardens?
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Old 01-31-08, 10:30 AM
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How much help are they receiving from their neighbor, the Dominican Republic?
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Old 01-31-08, 10:45 AM
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"Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son"

Hmmm. Do we drop off birth control in parachutes along with food? First thing I'm going to do is have sex and get knocked up when I cant even feed myself.

Ok, going to Hell now.
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Old 01-31-08, 12:52 PM
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Yikes - almost sounds like an Onion article.
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Old 01-31-08, 01:20 PM
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A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.
I wasn't aware they sold Chips Ahoy in Haiti.
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Old 01-31-08, 01:24 PM
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Sad story. Really it is.


Hmmmm, Now I wonder if Pizza Hut still has the second medium for $5 deal going on?
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Old 01-31-08, 01:34 PM
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Should change the title to Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt that they have to Pay for.
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Old 01-31-08, 03:22 PM
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that is messed up
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Old 01-31-08, 04:23 PM
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Well, if it makes anyone feel any better.......Grape Nuts is like eating sand!
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Old 01-31-08, 04:38 PM
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My friend adopted a boy from Haiti. He said it was one scary place down there. He is getting two more in a few months. That just sucks.
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Old 02-01-08, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
...He said it was one scary place down there...


That's the rumor.


Still sad, though. The people of Haiti have systematically deforested their part of Hispaniola over the past couple of centuries, and the ensuing erosion has washed most of the fertile topsoil into the ocean, leaving behind a ragged desert-like terrain.
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Old 02-01-08, 10:09 AM
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I'll go to hell for this, but there was a sketch on the old "Benny Hill" show where Benny is a starving, ragged beggar. He goes up to a soldier standing watch in front of a government building and pleads, "I have not tasted food for four days!"

The soldier replies, "Don't worry; it still tastes the same."

* * * * * * *

In all seriousness, I also wonder why the longstanding antipathy that the Dominican Republic has for Haiti manages to last through the knowledge of this kind of suffering.
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Old 02-01-08, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Vibiana
In all seriousness, I also wonder why the longstanding antipathy that the Dominican Republic has for Haiti manages to last through the knowledge of this kind of suffering.
The Dominican isn't exactly paradise economically either. There are Dominican boat people escaping to Puerto Rico in search of better economic conditions.
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Old 02-01-08, 03:55 PM
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True, but they also didn't destroy their side of the island, so they can still grow food there. Can't they share even a little?
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Old 02-01-08, 07:47 PM
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...Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents...

Stop fuckin'. Start eatin'.
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Old 02-01-08, 10:43 PM
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Whenever I hear about a country having famine, I always say to myself, "I bet its score in the 'Property Rights' category in the Index Of Economic Freedom is really low.

I'm never wrong about that:


http://www.heritage.org/research/fea.../countries.cfm

2008 Index Of Economic Freedom

http://www.heritage.org/research/fea...y.cfm?id=Haiti

Haiti

Property Rights - 10%

Protection of investors is severely compromised by weak enforcement, a paucity of updated laws to handle modern commercial practices, and a dysfunctional, resource-poor legal system. Litigants are often frustrated with the legal process, and most commercial disputes are settled out of court if at all. Widespread corruption allows disputing parties to purchase favorable outcomes. Despite statutes protecting both real and intellectual property, the weak judiciary and a lack of political will hinder enforcement.
Among the countries that do well in that category, famine does not exist. In this day and age, famine is always the result of bad government policy.

Here's an interesting story from a different poor country. In Niger, the trees were publicly owned. People were cutting them down for firewood. The forest was disappearing, and the desert was growing.

But then the government started to allow private ownership of trees. Under this new policy, people realized that they could make more money by taking care of the trees and selling the fruit, than they had been making by cutting down the trees for firewood.

As a result of adopting property rights, the desertification was reversed, and the people were richer and better fed.


http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/11/news/niger.php

Trees and crops reclaim desert in Niger

February 11, 2007

By Lydia Polgreen

GUIDAN BAKOYE, Niger: In this dust-choked region, long seen as an increasingly barren wasteland decaying into desert, millions of trees are flourishing, thanks in part to poor farmers whose simple methods cost little or nothing at all.

These gains, moreover, have come at a time when the population of Niger has exploded, confounding the conventional wisdom that population growth leads to the loss of trees and accelerates land degradation, scientists studying Niger say.

From colonial times, all trees in Niger had been regarded as the property of the state, which gave farmers little incentive to protect them. Trees were chopped for firewood or construction without regard to the environmental costs.

But over time, farmers began to regard the trees in their fields as their property, and in recent years the government has recognized the benefits of this by allowing individuals to own trees. Farmers make money off the trees by selling branches, pods, fruit and bark. Because these sales are more lucrative over time than simply chopping down the trees for firewood, the farmers preserve them.

Mahamane Larwanou, a forestry expert at the University of Niamey in Niger's capital, said the revival of trees had transformed rural life in Niger.

"The benefits are so many it is really astonishing," Larwanou said. "The farmers can sell the branches for money. They can feed the pods as fodder to their animals. They can sell or eat the leaves. They can sell and eat the fruits. Trees are so valuable to farmers, so they protect them."

They also have extraordinary ecological benefits. Their roots fix the soil in place, preventing it from being carried off with the fierce Sahelian winds and preserving arable land. The roots also help hold water in the ground, rather than letting it run off across rocky, barren fields into gullies where it floods villages and destroys crops.

The return of trees increases the income of rural farmers, cushioning the boom-and-bust cycle of farming and herding.

Ibrahim Idy, a farmer in Dahirou, a village in the Zinder region, has 20 baobab trees in his fields. Selling the leaves and fruit brings him about $300 a year in additional income. He has used that money to buy a motorized pump that draws water from his well to irrigate his cabbage and lettuce fields.

In the village of Koloma Baba, in the Tahoua region just south of the desert's edge, a group of widows has reclaimed fields once thought forever barren.

Over time, with careful tending, the land can regain its ability to produce crops. In this manner, more than 240,000 hectares of land have been reclaimed, according to researchers.
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Old 02-01-08, 11:45 PM
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Interesting. However, don't you think Haiti is just one big corrupt shithole? Since it's so small of an area, it's more difficult for the corruption to be absorbed into a consumer atmosphere.
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Old 02-02-08, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Interesting. However, don't you think Haiti is just one big corrupt shithole? Since it's so small of an area, it's more difficult for the corruption to be absorbed into a consumer atmosphere.

Haiti is the most corrupt country in the world, of the ones that were rated.


http://www.heritage.org/research/fea.../countries.cfm

Freedom from Corruption - 18%

Corruption is perceived as rampant. Haiti ranks 163rd out of 163 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2006. Haiti's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries is a major impediment to doing business. Customs officers often demand bribes to clear shipments. Smuggling is a major problem, and contraband accounts for a large percentage of the manufactured consumables market.
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Old 02-02-08, 04:09 PM
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Cuba is next to last on your Index of Economic Freedom and also has a Property Rights score of 10%, and yet manages to feed it's people fine. For developing and underdeveloped nations, promoting local food production is a lot more important in terms of feeding your people than any "economic freedom" rank.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinio...1_focus13.html

But leave it to grundle to always find amazingly simple solutions to extremely complex problems.
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Old 02-02-08, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by AGuyNamedMike
The people of Haiti have systematically deforested their part of Hispaniola over the past couple of centuries, and the ensuing erosion has washed most of the fertile topsoil into the ocean, leaving behind a ragged desert-like terrain.
In other words, their dirt cookies aren't even very good, as far as dirt cookies go.
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Old 02-02-08, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Cuba is next to last on your Index of Economic Freedom and also has a Property Rights score of 10%, and yet manages to feed it's people fine. For developing and underdeveloped nations, promoting local food production is a lot more important in terms of feeding your people than any "economic freedom" rank.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinio...1_focus13.html

But leave it to grundle to always find amazingly simple solutions to extremely complex problems.
Ah, excellent point. I don't know about food, but literacy and life expectancy are the first two numbers I always look at when judging a country.

According to the World Factbook, Cuba's literacy rate's 97% and life expectancy's 76 years. For Haiti, it's 52% and 51 years.

http://www.umsl.edu/services/govdocs...3/geos/cu.html

Of course, economic freedom is important too.
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Old 02-03-08, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Cuba is next to last on your Index of Economic Freedom and also has a Property Rights score of 10%, and yet manages to feed it's people fine. For developing and underdeveloped nations, promoting local food production is a lot more important in terms of feeding your people than any "economic freedom" rank.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinio...1_focus13.html

But leave it to grundle to always find amazingly simple solutions to extremely complex problems.
Cuba doesn't have famine.

But it does have shortages of food. The situation is not as rosy as you seem to think. No wonder why everone in Cuba is so skinny:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationing_in_Cuba

Rationing in Cuba

The vast majority of Cuban families rely, for their food intake, on the Libreta de Abastecimiento (literally, "Supplies booklet") distribution system, instated on March 12, 1962. The system establishes the rations each person is allowed to buy and the frequency of supplies.

Standard rations

A table follows that illustrates the standard ration distributed through this system. Figures are per person, per month. An indication of the subsidized prices is given, as well. Allowances vary from year to year, so these should be understood as approximate figures, based on year 2000 data:

Product Quantity Price (CUP)

Rice 6 lb 0.70 / lb

Beans 20 oz. 0.32 / lb

White (refined) sugar 3 lb 0.15 / lb

Dark (unrefined) sugar 3 lb 0.10 / lb

Milk (only children under 7 years) 1 lt / day 0.25 / each

Eggs (*) 12 0.15 each

Potatoes/bananas 15 lb 0.40 / lb

(*) Only from September through December.

Meat products are distributed separately, if available, following a different rationale. These are distributed each 15 days, and usually rotate (that is, the product type changes on each delivery). Fish, beef, ground beef (usually mixed with soy), chicken, sausages and ham fall in this category. Quantities, and prices, differ for each meat product (beef, lb/person each 15 days, whereas chicken is 1 lb/person each 15 days).

It must be said that distribution is not always prompt, and product delivery is frequently delayed (for example, if one month there were no beans to distribute, they usually cumulate for next month, although this is not always the case). Such delays are most evident in beef distribution. The fact that products are not available at the bodega always, but arrive in a more or less random manner, creates long queues when products arrive, which sometimes makes buying the products a quite lengthy process.
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Old 02-03-08, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Cuba is next to last on your Index of Economic Freedom and also has a Property Rights score of 10%, and yet manages to feed it's people fine. For developing and underdeveloped nations, promoting local food production is a lot more important in terms of feeding your people than any "economic freedom" rank.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinio...1_focus13.html

But leave it to grundle to always find amazingly simple solutions to extremely complex problems.

Your artice says:

in my hand, filled to the brim and frothing with vitality, was the juice from revolutionary mangoes
I think this thread needs to be moved to the adult section.
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Old 02-03-08, 04:59 PM
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Nah. Move it to the Cheap Eats Forum.

Come to think of it, FatWallet Folk would probably eat these cookies by the truckload as they are so cheap. I can just see the posts now...
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