Rising violence in Haiti is stranding food at port


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Several thousand tons of food meant for three-quarters of a million poor Haitians is stuck at the capital port because of the rising violence here, directors of the three largest food relief programs say.

The directors of CARE, Catholic Relief Services and Adventist Development and Relief Agency said the stoppage and the unease has forced them to postpone trips to the countryside and around Port-au-Prince.

In addition, they said the United Nations embargo will further hurt them. While warships likely would allow shipments of humanitarian assistance into port, under the embargo terms they will not allow gasoline to pass through, which eventually will curtail deliveries by truck.

"It's going to be a nightmare again," CARE's Chris Conrad said. "With the last embargo, we had a lot of trouble delivering food."

"The holdup of our shipment at the port now is very serious," said Glenn Mitchell, food director for the Adventist program, which serves 187,500 people. "We don't have any vegetable oil left. We need that shipment now so people can use it to cook."

Currently in limbo at the port: 4,600 tons for Catholic Relief, 2,000 tons for the Adventists and several thousand tons for CARE. Spoilage should not be a problem for another two months, the directors said. The problem is dwindling supplies.

Catholic Relief's shipment already had been held up for more than a month. "You need to get three ministries to sign off on it, and one minister was out of town for a while. Then came the violence at the port," Catholic Relief's Doug Greene said.

With help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the three groups have coordinated their deliveries to cover most of the country of 7 million, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

CARE feeds 360,000 in north Haiti, including an emergency program in the northwest. Catholic Relief serves 200,000 mainly in south Haiti. The Adventists work around Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau.

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