Congresswoman Waters Urges President to Assist Haiti
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) again urged President Bush to act swiftly in providing emergency assistance to Haiti. Congresswoman Waters joined other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) today in highlighting the dire situation in Haiti and calling for immediate action including emergency food assistance, debt relief and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians who have fled the instability in their country and are currently residing in the U.S.
"The people of Haiti are suffering and need our help immediately. In addition to the ongoing problems of extreme poverty, economic instability and political unrest, now a growing food crisis poses the threat of severe hunger and even starvation for tens of thousands of Haitians. America has a moral obligation to help our neighbors during this emergency -- and we have the capacity to do so," Congresswoman Waters said.
Congresswoman Waters stated that the U.S. government, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, should arrange for immediate shipments of food to Haiti and work with Haitian government officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to coordinate fair and effective distribution.
Last night, Congresswoman Waters was informed that USAID is now planning to ship emergency food supplies from Texas to Haiti. "I am encouraged by this report that food will soon be sent to Haiti, and I call on the President to take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that this food is distributed to those who need it," Congresswoman Waters said.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has recently been affected by the global food crisis. Prices for some food items in Haiti, such as rice, have doubled in the last six months. According to the World Food Program, the average Haitian diet consists of only 1,640 calories, substantially fewer than the typical daily requirement of 2,100.
Congresswoman Waters has been involved for years in efforts to help Haiti. She opposed the 2004 Haitian coup d'etat, which overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. She also leads congressional efforts to cancel the debts that poor countries, including Haiti, owe to multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank so they can be free from the burden of international debts and instead pay for vital needs. Haiti owes more than $1 billion and is scheduled to pay more than $48 million in debt service this year.
"This is money that could be spent to develop Haiti's economy and rebuild crumbling infrastructure. However, while debt cancellation is important, it will not feed hungry people. The people of Haiti need food, and they need it now," Congresswoman Waters said.