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Hurricane Jeanne was still just a "tropical storm" when it tore through Haiti Sept. 20, but nonetheless left at least 1,500 dead, nearly 1,000 missing and 200,000 homeless, especially in the northwest port city of Gonaives. The world's attention has shifted elsewhere since the armed rebellion which led to the March 1 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But now the failure of Haiti's new US-backed government to disarm the paramilitary gangs that pushed out Aristide is deepening the impoverished nation's agony. Armed gangs have held up relief convoys, hindering the delivery of food and water to the survivors of Jeanne.

"There's a big problem with gangs," John Harrison, security chief of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, told AP Sept. 30, days after men armed with guns and machetes held up a government aid convoy. "I think things could get worse," he said.

Planeloads of relief aid have arrived from around the world, but getting it to the people who need it has become a challenge. Aid workers say they are racing the clock to get fresh water to stricken communities before cholera breaks out. The UN has sent 150 more troops to Gonaives since the storm, reinforcing some 600 peacekeepers already in the city. An altercation has already been reported between a group of about 20 armed rebels and UN peacekeepers guarding the main food aid warehouse in Gonaives. (AP, Sept. 30)

Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, a spokesman for the UN mission, told AP that there are so many armed groups operating in Haiti that it is impossible to say which are responsible for the raids of relief supplies in Gonaives. "The city is just filled with gangs," he said. Food riots by the desperate population have also broken out. On Sept. 24, Argentine UN troops hurled smoke grenades to break up a crowd of some 500 which threatened to overwhelm a schoolyard where women waited in long lines for grain rations being distributed by CARE. (AP, July 25)

Electricity and landline phones are out of operation in Gonaives, and the city's hospital is flooded. Roads are nearly impassable with mud, and unclaimed corpses have been hurriedly dumped into mass graves by the truckload to prevent disease. An emergency Oxfam airlift from England has brought in tents and plastic sheeting for the many thousands left homeless. (BBC, Sept. 23; The Scotsman, Sept. 28)

Croplands were also devastated by the storm, especially in the Northwest region, with corn fields, rive paddies and citrus orchards flattened--exacerbating the damage to Haitian agriculture from floods in May that killed over 3,000 along the Dominican border. The flooded region produced up to 40% of the bananas, beans and sweet potatoes consumed in Haiti. "In the 1970s, Haiti used to be able to produce about 70% of the food; now it's about 40 and this latest tragedy could affect that even more," said Guy Gavreau, Haiti director of the UN's World Food Program (WFP).

The WFP says $5.9 million is now desperately needed to feed 100,000 Haitians for the next five months. Eighty per cent of Haiti's population lives under the minimum poverty threshold of $150 dollars a month, according to the WFP. (SBS, Sept. 30)

Haiti is 98% deforested, leaving farmlands vulnerable to severe erosion and flooding. And rebuilding and recovery efforts are impossible in the atmosphere of lawlessness, locals say.

"We can't even begin to replant because corpses are still clogging our canals," Delva Delivra, a 54-year-old peasant told AP, pointing to an unclaimed corpse in a muddy canal next to a field of crushed corn stocks. "It's the farmers who always suffer." (AP, Sept. 30)


Haitians in the New York area are organizing a relief drive for Gonaives and the Northwest. Please send contributions payable to Hurricane Jeanne Relief Fund Committee:

Hurricane Jeanne Relief Fund Committee
c/o Nord-Ouest RŽuni
P.O. Box 162
Baldwin, NY 11510-0162


See also WW3 REPORT #96

(Bill Weinberg)

Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Oct. 4, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.