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While relief agency leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the eleventh-hour negotiations that averted an invasion of Haiti last month, they say it will take a major humanitarian effort to lessen poverty and hunger in the country.
Although many anxiously wait for democracy to take root in this troubled country, most of Haiti's poor are looking for more immediate basics of life-food, clean water, safety, and perhaps a job.
U.S.-led troops brought the prospect of political change, but humanitarian help was not so quick in coming. According to Food for the Poor executive director James Cavnar, ships did not begin transporting supplies to Haiti until almost two weeks after the first troops landed.
International sanctions against Haiti had a devastating impact on missionary and church groups working in the impoverished nation (CT, July 18, 1994, p. 52). "The embargo has caused a depletion of essential goods and materials needed to maintain a society," says Wally Admundson, regional director for Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland. "Everything has been affected: agriculture, small industry, medical services, the food supply, and education."
"We were not able to ship food since last May," Cavnar said. "Our warehouses were empty." The Deerfield Beach, Florida-based Food for the Poor has contributed more than $44 million in goods to Haiti since 1982. Shipping lines carrying food and medical supplies reopened only after the accord calling for the resignation of Gen. Raoul Cedras and his top military officers and the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
With relief supplies now flowing, many agencies are mounting large fundraising campaigns to buy food, medicine, and construction supplies. With food shipments now in storage in Port-au-Prince, the real problem is getting food to the most needy.
According to Worldteam USA president Terry Harder, even with massive economic humanitarian efforts, "It is well known that food ...