News / Americas

    Exodus From Haitian Capital Might be a Good Thing

    Devastating quake could spark economic resurgence

    Port-au-Prince residents board a bus to leave the capital city for safer rural areas in Haiti
    Port-au-Prince residents board a bus to leave the capital city for safer rural areas in Haiti

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are surviving on emergency food aid after last month's devastating earthquake in a nation that was already struggling to feed its people. But some food policy experts believe the disaster could eventually lead to Haiti's economic resurgence.  

    Less than two years ago, riots broke out in Haiti when the price of food staples skyrocketed. It was the latest illustration of the island nation's long-running problems with food security. U.N. estimates going back to 1990 consistently show that more than half the population is undernourished.

    The earthquake dealt another blow to the country's ability to feed itself. Irrigation systems, food processing plants and storage facilities in quake-affected rural areas have suffered damage. That's in addition to the devastation in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Destruction that will have ripple effects throughout the small country, according to Cristina Amaral, chief of emergency operations for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    "The economic center, that was Port-au-Prince. The port, all the transportation network, the market chain and all the supply chain in the country has been completely disrupted," says Amaral.

    Exodus to the countryside

    Thousands are now fleeing Port-au-Prince for the countryside. Marie Ruel of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), says that could worsen Haiti's hunger problems. "In the short term, it puts a burden on people in the countryside to feed the more mouths that are coming, with them not having any more resource[s]," she says.

    In the long term, however, some experts say the exodus from Port-au-Prince might be a good thing. The capital was overcrowded and could not support all the people who had been drawn there looking for work. The FAO's Cristina Amaral says coordinated efforts to support the new arrivals in the countryside would be a wise investment.  

    "It will be certainly faster to improve the absorption capacity of the rural areas so the Haitians who have not suffered the earthquake could help their country-fellows to get some work in agriculture, to start to do food production," she says.

    Opportunity in crisis

    Amaral says a Haitian economic renaissance could start in these rural areas. She suggests beginning with an agricultural development program that puts people to work improving irrigation and possibly planting trees in the denuded countryside.

    IFPRI's Marie Ruel would like to see Haiti's dismal road infrastructure improved. She says the earthquake actually presents Haiti with an opportunity. "Maybe with all the attention that Haiti has gotten now, if we can maintain that, maybe there will be some reconstruction efforts that will make things much better."

    Before reconstruction begins in earnest, though, experts say the priority in the next few weeks will be to help supply Haitian farmers with seeds, fertilizers and tools for the March planting season. The FAO's Cristina Amaral would like to see food distribution centers give people seeds and equipment for simple backyard vegetable gardens.

    Besides providing fresh wholesome food, watching a garden bloom could give Haitians some much-needed hope in desperate times, says Amaral.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Haiti Braces for Trouble as Election Panel Report Is Due

    Haitians are preparing for trouble as electoral verification commission is due to deliver results of its monthlong review of last year's contested presidential and legislative elections

    Brazil Launches Manhunt for Alleged Gang Rapists

    Police identifies four of 30 suspects who gang raped teenager and posted video online

    'El Chapo' Lawyers Split on Extradition Case

    Lawyers can't agree on staving off extradition to US

    Colombia Rebels Release Three Journalists

    All three, including a Spanish correspondent working on a story about coca growers, were released Friday

    WHO Dismisses Changing Summer Olympics for Zika

    WHO says canceling or postponing the Olympics will not alter the international spread of Zika virus

    Global Growth the 'Urgent Priority', G-7 Leaders Conclude

    A final statement of addressed broad issues facing the global economy while glossing over a difference of opinions among leaders over fiscal stimulus