Looting in storm-ravaged Haiti

Hurricane Jeanne, which left at least 1,554 people dead and 904 missing, flattened corn fields, washed away rice paddies and crippled orange crops.

The calamity visited by Jeanne comes in a year that began with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide being forced from power in a three-week rebellion and was followed by floods in May that killed more than 3,000 along the Haitian-Dominican border.

Fears of a famine have led to a series of attacks on food supplies and led UN forces to provide more humanitarian aid after the devastating storm.

“In the 1970s, Haiti used to be able to produce about 70 per cent of the food, now it’s about 40 and this latest tragedy could affect that even more,” said Guy Gavreau, the World Food Program’s Haiti director.

The area flooded produced between 30 and 40 per cent of the bananas, beans and sweet potatoes consumed in Haiti – the part of the diet that provides protein.

The city of Gonaives, with a population of 250,000, remains without clean water since Jeanne devastated the region more than a week ago.

Officials from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said 700 blue-helmet troops were protecting international aid convoys distributing donations from four depots in Gonaives.

The UN mission said it will make a “flash appeal” to the international community to come to the aid of Haiti’s disaster victims.

Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who visited Haiti on Wednesday, said security for convoys has improved.

“I am very reassured about the government’s ability … to bring the food,” Mr Pettigrew said.

“Trucks are no longer travelling alone and are leaving in two convoys escorted by UN troops every day”, he added.

“There was a real improvement on the ground,” he said, but “the situation remains fragile”.

The World Food Program (WFP) said Haiti needs $US5.9 million to feed 100,000 people over five months. The organization has distributed 254 tonnes of food, medicine and emergency material since the natural disaster occurred.

Eighty per cent of Haiti’s population lives under the minimum poverty threshold of $US150 dollars a month, according to WFP.

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