Congresswoman Waters Calls for Emergency Food Assistance and Debt Relief for Haiti
Today, on Capitol Hill, Rep. Maxine Waters (D?CA) called on the President to provide emergency food aid to Haiti. She made the following statement:
Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the global food crisis has reached emergency proportions and threatens to wipe out seven years of progress in the fight against poverty.
The situation is particularly dire in Haiti, which is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. According to the World Food Program, the average Haitian diet consists of only 1,640 calories. That's 460 calories less than the typical daily requirement of 2,100 calories. Reuters has reported that prices for some items in Haiti, such as rice, have doubled in the last six months.
For several years, I have been trying to convince the international community to cancel Haiti's debts. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Haiti owes over one billion dollars to multilateral financial institutions. Haiti is scheduled to send $48.7 million in debt payments to these institutions this year. These debt service payments are a drain on Haiti's fragile economy, and they will continue to impede development unless Haiti can get debt cancellation. On February 28, 2008, I sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, urging him to use his influence to expedite debt cancellation for Haiti and suspend immediately all further debt service payments from Haiti. This letter was signed by 54 members of the House of Representatives.
Today, I call on the President to provide emergency food aid to Haiti without delay. I join several of my colleagues, including Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Eliot Engel, to call on the President to provide emergency food assistance to this impoverished nation.
The people of Haiti have been waiting for years for relief from their debts, but they cannot wait for food. Haiti needs help now.