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Conditions of Life in Haiti

I have confirmed by telephone with the Director of CARE-Haiti that corruption in the distribution of CARE food was not the cause of the unrest in Gonaive as mentioned in Bella Stumbo’s recent series on Haiti (Dec. 15-17); rather, it was then--and continues to be--the widespread hunger and food needs of the people in Gonaive and elsewhere.

As the article so vividly illustrates, the quality of life for the masses in Haiti is deplorable. The demonstrations last year in Gonaive took place during a time of drought when food was particularly scarce. There were also demonstrations in a number of cities without CARE warehouses. In Gonaive, CARE’s warehouse is located in that city’s main slum area, and when unrest occurs it often takes place near that warehouse.

CARE’s food is not intended for the general population, but rather for targeted groups which are particularly at risk as well as compensation for work performed on community development projects. Extensive precautions are taken to guarantee that food is distributed only to those people who participate in approved projects: 350,000 children per day in school lunch programs; preschool children, pregnant women and lactating mothers at 150 nutrition centers; and adults in food-for-work programs constructing feeder roads and potable water systems, or participating in reforestation efforts.

It is vital for CARE to assume total responsibility for food distributed under our name; we do not share this with the government.

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Our programs provide sustenance to those most in need as well as education, training and hope to thousands who may one day shape a more equitable Haitian society.

RICHARD HOFF

Los Angeles

Hoff is director, Pacific Southwest Regional Office of CARE.

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