The Haiti Hustle: Street vendors in Port-Au-Prince sell U.S. Aid in black market

Featured, Haiti — By Kamara Jones on February 5, 2010 at 07:20
This is not an original report. The information presented here was collected from various media outlets.

The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters reported that Haitian street vendors are selling portions of rice from U.S. food-aid bags for 22 gourdes each ($0.55) in Haiti’s capital city Port-Au-Prince.

“It is too early to say how much ends up on the black market. We never like to see it happen,” Mark Prior, a spokesman for the World Food Program, told Reuters.

After the January 12 earthquake that leveled Haiti’s capital city, killing up to 200,000 and leaving more than 1 million homeless, food distribution, according to the Christian Science Monitor, was “chaotic.” Young Haitian men would often overpower women and the elderly to get food-aid bags first, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

For example, on January 21, the BBC reported that hundreds of displaced Haitians fought over sacks of food provided by a German relief agency. Watch a video of the scuffle Here. According to the BBC, nine days after the earthquake people still had very little to eat and relief agencies had not set up an efficient way to distribute food.

“On a couple of occasions, U.N. soldiers fired tear gas into hungry crowds jostling for a limited amount of goods,” Reuters reported recently.

To mitigate food distribution chaos and ensure that families who need the food get it, international aid groups established a new system last weekend where only women, not men, are given 55-pound bags of rice

“Our long experience in food distribution tells us that by delivering food into the hands of women, it is more likely to be redistributed equitably among the household –including the men,” Prior told CNN, adding that women are usually responsible for the household food supply and that men in need would not be excluded. In addition, CNN reported that another aid worker told them that most men have a “wife, a sister, a mother or girlfriend” who can feed them.

An attorney writing for the online publication Men’s Daily News complained in an opinion piece that excluding men is unfair, and that he wasn’t convinced by Prior’s argument.

“What if a man or boy happens not to have a wife, sister, etc.?  What if he had one but she was killed or disabled in the quake?  Or what happens if he has such a female relative, but is estranged from her?…” the attorney wrote. “In Haiti, the short answer is ‘he starves.’”

Unfortunately the new system has another problem –some people do not know where to get the cards.

“No food has come here. We know they are using the cards but we don’t know how to find the cards,” Losin Fritz, a community leader for about 4,500 people living in tents, told the Christian Science Monitor.

In addition, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the ration cards, like the rice, are also ending up on the black market, selling for 50 gourdes ($1.24), more than double the amount of a cup of rice.

“Only (the leaders’) friends get the cards and we don’t have any money to buy the rice at the market,” Peter Princius, an old man, told the Christian Science Monitor. “And we are hungry.”

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Author: Kamara Jones (3 Articles)

Kamara Jones

Kamara Jones is a graduate student in the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University, and a recipient of the year-long Graduate Enrichment Fellowship. She is currently conducting research on the 2008 presidential campaign. She is specifically focused on the concept of post-racialism, a political ideology that developed as a result of President Barack Obama's success. She is interested in defining post-racialism and measuring the ideology's effects on Civil Rights policies and the African-American counterpublic. Ms. Jones has also conducted research on political ads that frame issues in terms of race, specifically on the images and rhetoric used in these ads and their relationship to the Southern Strategy. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri where she graduated in 2008 magna cum laude.

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