The European Union says it will give nearly $5 million to help impoverished Haitians cope with spiraling food prices. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports the EU aid adds to assistance from other international organizations for Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Announced at a press conference in Brussels Tuesday, the $4.6 million in aid to Haiti brings to more than $12 million the European Union has earmarked for Haiti this year. The EU says the assistance will help provide food, health care, clean water and hygiene to about 1.5 million people in Haiti and will focus on women, children and small farms.
John Clancy, spokesman for the European Commission - the EU's executive branch - says the assistance comes on top of other international aid for Haiti. On Monday, the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization announced it was distributing seeds and tools to thousands of Haitian farmers.
"Three million to address the continued social and economic situation particularly for the vulnerable populations on the island," said Clancy. "Haiti, as you're aware, is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The instability there has of course compounded the difficult situation the population has been facing, particularly since April troubles linked to the increase in food prices globally and particularly in Haiti."
Soaring food prices led to deadly riots in Haiti in April that forced the country's prime minister to resign. Experts say the political void compounded Haiti's problems, leaving the Caribbean country unable to sign foreign aid deals. Relief agencies have complained of problems shipping food and supplies to Haiti. The situation has become so dire that there are reports of people eating mud cakes in some slums.
Relief workers hope matters will be eased with the Haitian senate's ratification of Michele Pierre-Louis as the country's new prime minister last week, making her only the second woman to hold that office in Haiti.
Spiraling food prices have led to hard times and unrest in a number of developing countries. Last month, the European Commission approved a plan to give $1.5 billion to farmers in Africa to cope with high food prices and boost production of food crops there.