April 14 2008

Food riots in Haiti

14/04/2008 - For days, there has been serious unrest in Haiti as a result of massive increases in food prices. The SOS school in the capital Port-au-Prince has been temporarily closed as a precautionary measure.

Photo: SOS Archives
Cap Haitien - Photo: SOS Archives
Haiti, the poorest country in Latin America, has been hit particularly hard by the dramatic increase in food prices. Thousands of people took to the streets in protest. There were also violent riots, in which at least five people are known to have died.

The SOS school and the national office of SOS Children's Villages Haiti in the capital Port-au-Prince have been temporarily closed for security reasons.

Food prices are rising across the world, but the most significant impact has been felt in Haiti, where around 80% of the population has to live on less than two US dollars a day. Only in Somalia and Afghanistan is the food situation worse.

Haiti once had a productive agricultural sector, but in the past years it has become weaker as a result of erosion, forest clearance, flooding and tropical storms. The small number of farmers that are still in business often have to ask for higher prices for their crops than goods that have been imported from the United States, which are heavily subsidised.

The rising food prices are also presenting a challenge for SOS Children's Villages and other aid organisations, since the running costs of SOS facilities are increasing. The food crisis is also putting an additional strain on disadvantaged families, which is in turn leading to a greater need for support.

The World Food Programme recently warned of further food riots and declared that countries such as Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and the Philippines were also at risk.