UN To Step Up Food Aid For Haiti Following Riots Over Prices

By: AP
By: AP

UNITED NATIONS - United Nations programs will distribute 8,000 tons of food and other help for Haitians in coming days as part of efforts to confront unrest over rising prices that set off recent rioting, officials said Thursday.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said food provided by the World Food Program will focus on children, pregnant women and nursing mothers in the north, west and central regions of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The U.N. Children's Fund will double its child feeding program to combat malnutrition and spend some $1.6 million on water and sanitation projects in the northwest and Artibonite regions, Montas said.

Anger over surging food prices has threatened stability in the Caribbean nation, which has long been haunted by chronic hunger. Haitian lawmakers fired Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis over the rioting.

Globally, food prices have risen 40 percent since mid-2007.

Haiti is particularly affected because it imports nearly all of its food, including more than 80 percent of its rice. Once productive farmland has been abandoned as farmers struggle to grow crops in soil devastated by erosion, deforestation, flooding and tropical storms.

Protests and looting in Port-au-Prince left at least seven dead last week, including a Nigerian officer in the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force who was pulled from a car and killed Saturday. Three Sri Lankan peacekeepers were injured by gunfire early last week.

Brazilian members of the U.N. peacekeeping force distributed 14 tons of rice, beans, sugar and cooking oil to 1,500 families in the capital's sprawling Cite Soleil slum Tuesday.

The World Food Program and the U.N. mission in Haiti continue to support various projects aimed at creating jobs, Montas said. Some 2,500 Haitians are already employed by these projects which have a combined budget of $2.3 million, she said.

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