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13 posts categorized "Haiti"

Fortifying Haitian Kids against Malnutrition

Text by Molly Marsh / Audio Slideshow by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

DEBRIGA, HAITI — We’re in the Haitian village of Debriga, standing inside a small building that serves as the community’s church, school, and gathering center. The walls consist of dried palm tree leaves held together by wooden beams. The temperature and a tin roof keep the room hot and airless, and small children run across the dirt floor—some in pink or orange Crocs, others in their bare feet.

Audio Slideshow / In the village of Debriga, a new Fonkoze health program diagnoses and treats child malnutrition.

 

About 100 women and children are sitting on rows of long wooden benches listening to Nicole Cesar Muller, Fonkoze’s director of health, talk about the importance of vitamins and nutrition. Several children have a reddish tint to their hair—a sign of malnutrition—as well as swollen bellies, an indication they have worms.

This gathering is part of a new health program Fonkoze started in the last year. Bank managers noticed that many of their clients’ children were malnourished, so the organization decided to partner with medical groups—such as Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante in Creole)—to diagnose and treat it. Fonkoze center chiefs, as they’re called, are trained to test kids for malnutrition and connect mothers and children with treatment.

At this gathering, Muller will distribute six months' worth of vitamin A, multivitamins, and de-worming pills to the mothers.

She tells them why vitamins are important. “Put [them] on top of what you’re eating, because we know you’re not getting enough nutrients in your food,” she says. The multivitamins taste good, so Muller reminds them that their kids should only get one a day. And, she says, “It’s a very expensive vitamin, so we don’t want you to do business with it. It goes to your kids.”

Muller then puts on plastic gloves, picks up the vitamin A bottle, and moves through the crowd. The children look up at her from the safety of their mothers’ laps—some protest in anticipation; others are quietly scared. Most are mesmerized by this warm, efficient woman with the yellow headscarf. She cuts off the tip of each capsule and pours the powder on each child’s tongue. There’s no water to wash it down, and the looks on their faces indicate how bad it tastes.

Six months ago, a 5-year-old girl named Ismylove Volma was so severely malnourished that she had no hair and couldn’t walk. She was sent to Zanmi Lasante for treatment. Now she wears white ribbons in her hair, and though she’s still very small for her age, she’s walking.

Twenty-two-year-old Louis Wisline, who lives just behind the building, brought her daughter, Francesca, to the vitamin distribution because she wants her 2-year-old to be healthy. Wisline isn’t a member of Fonkoze, but that’s not a requirement for coming—the vitamins are for any mothers in the community who want them. Malnutrition is common in Haiti, especially in rural areas like Debriga.

Since the program began, 824 children have been diagnosed with malnutrition and received treatment.

The Power of the Purse: Haitian Women Build Their Economic Strength

MIREBALAIS, HAITI — Purses: They carry all sorts of useful sundries such as pens, business cards, lipstick, and gum. Most importantly, purses carry money.

Here in Haiti, where 54 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, microfinance organization Fonkoze is helping women build businesses that feed their families, lift them out of poverty and pad their purses with a bit of cash.

Yesterday at a Fonkoze community meeting I noticed the variety of handbags women carried around. Many were black. Some were small. All seemed to be carried with pride by their owners.

Text and Photos by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

 

 

Trees Take Root in Haiti

Text by Molly Marsh / Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The 45-minute ride from Port-au-Prince to the village of Arcahaie is hot and bumpy. The landscape around us is dotted with shrubs and some trees, though generations of deforestation have left the hillsides of Chaîne des Matheux, the mountain range north of Haiti’s capital city, green but mostly barren.

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Children help line up tree seedlings at a Trees for the Future nursery in Gericher, Haiti.

Timote Georges, Haiti program coordinator for Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization that works on reforestation projects in some 20 countries, points out the devastating effects of deforestation. There are few trees to keep the soil from eroding, to provide relief from the unrelenting sun and heat, and to protect farms and homes from the ravages of heavy rains.

“When it rains, people in the lowlands see their work and livelihoods washed out,” says Georges. Trees would minimize the impact of Haiti’s seasonal rains, not to mention the hurricanes the country regularly experiences. Tree roots also add important nutrients to soil. Healthy, nutritious soil leads to better crops, which leads to more food and less hunger.

Georges and his colleagues stopped their pickups—carrying us and Bread senior policy analyst Whitney Rhoades—on a gravel road overlooking a steep embankment. Next up was a walk through the brush and a wade through a river to reach the community of Gericher. We climbed a hill to enter a small but lively oasis—a nursery packed with plants, trees, and families who are participating in a Trees for the Future program.

Tidy lines of seedlings, planted in dirt and natural compost and wrapped with black plastic, covered the ground. Children carefully watered them so that the trees’ roots would develop. When the trees mature, they’ll be replanted higher in the hills as well as the immediate area. Many of the 170 families served by the nursery already have trees surrounding their homes, farms, and livestock to protect them from landslides and heavy rains.

Involving family and community members in the projects is key, says Georges. “Before we start doing anything, we do training. We talk about existing environmental problems. We help them become aware of the consequences of deforestation, and we tell them how trees can control erosion and help stabilize soil. We talk about the importance of trees for nature—for them.”

Once community members decide on their plan, Trees for the Future provides training, tools, and technical assistance to help them establish their nurseries.

The organization manages projects in three areas of Haiti—Arcahaie, Gonaives, and Medor—which serve 20 communities. It’s a small organization with a big impact—they’ve planted close to 1 million trees in a country whose tree coverage is estimated at 2 percent.

“We lost bridges in 10 minutes,” said Georges, referring to the hurricanes Haiti experienced in 2008. “It’s because the environment around the bridges was degraded. When we talk about helping Haiti, we have to invest in the environment.”

Our group left the nursery and walked back down a dry, rocky hill toward the river. “Before we planted, it was like this,” Georges said, pointing to the barren earth underneath his feet. “It was lifeless. Now it is living.

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The Trees for the Future nursery in Gericher, Haiti, lies in a field dotted with low-lying shrubbery and rocks but few trees.


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"Doing reforestation without environmental education is a mistake," says Timote Georges, Haiti program coordinator for Trees for the Future. Georges studied agronomy in Haiti and Costa Rica and started working with the organization in 2008.

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The tree nursery in Gericher, Haiti, serves 170 families.

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Haiti is 98% deforested, which exacerbates soil erosion problems and hurts agriculture production, thus contributing to poverty and hunger in the country.

Bread for the World is traveling in Haiti this week to collect stories related to alleviating hunger and poverty.

Trees Take Root in Haiti

The 45-minute ride from Port-au-Prince to the village of Arcahaie is hot and bumpy. The landscape around us is dotted with shrubs and some trees, though generations of deforestation have left the hillsides of Chaîne des Matheux, the mountain range north of Haiti’s capital city, green but mostly barren.

Timoté Georges, Haiti program coordinator for Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization that works on reforestation projects in some 20 countries, points out the devastating effects of deforestation. There are few trees to keep the soil from eroding, to provide relief from the unrelenting sun and heat, and to protect farms and homes from the ravages of heavy rains.

“When it rains, people in the lowlands see their work and livelihoods washed out,” says Georges. Trees would minimize the impact of Haiti’s seasonal rains, not to mention the hurricanes the country regularly experiences. Tree roots also add important nutrients to soil. Healthy, nutritious soil leads to better crops, which leads to more food and less hunger.

Georges and his colleagues stopped their pickups—carrying Laura Elizabeth Pohl, Bread’s multimedia manager, Whitney Rhoades, a Bread senior policy analyst, and me—on a gravel road overlooking a steep embankment. Next up was a walk through the brush and a wade through a river to reach the community of Gericher.  We climbed a hill to enter a small but lively oasis—a nursery packed with plants, trees, and families who are participating in a Trees for the Future program.

Tidy lines of seedlings, planted in dirt and natural compost and wrapped with black plastic, covered the ground. Children carefully watered them so that the trees’ roots would develop. When the trees mature, they’ll be replanted higher in the hills as well as the immediate area. Many of the 170 families served by the nursery already have trees surrounding their homes, farms, and livestock to protect them from landslides and heavy rains.

Involving family and community members in the projects is key, says Georges. “Before we start doing anything, we do training. We talk about existing environmental problems. We help them become aware of the consequences of deforestation, and we tell them how trees can control erosion and help stabilize soil. We talk about the importance of trees for nature—for them.”

Once community members decide on their plan, Trees for the Future provides training, tools, and technical assistance to help them establish their nurseries.

The organization manages projects in three areas of Haiti—Arcahaie, Gonaives, and Medor—which serve 20 communities. It’s a small organization with a big impact—they’ve planted close to 1 million trees in a country whose tree coverage is estimated at 2 percent.

“We lost bridges in 10 minutes,” said Georges, referring to the earthquake Haiti experienced January 12. “It’s because the environment around the bridges was degraded. When we talk about helping Haiti, we have to invest in the environment.”

Our group left the nursery and walked back down a dry, rocky hill toward the river. “Before we planted, it was like this,” Georges said, pointing to the barren earth underneath his feet. “It was lifeless. Now it is living.”

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