Haiti: flood deaths a direct result of deforestation and poverty

 The impact of tropical storm Jeanne, which has claimed over 1,000 lives in Haiti, according to latest estimates, has been greatly exacerbated by the underlying problems of deforestation and poverty. The storm created enormous mudslides, which swept away homes and isolated communities. Christian Aid warns that unless these underlying problems are tackled in Haiti, tropical storms and hurricanes will continue to have a devastating effect. "Because the economic situation for many Haitians is so precarious, they rely on chopping down trees for fuel," said Judith Turbyne, Christian Aid's regional manager for Central America. "It is still commonplace to use charcoal, which requires an enormous amount of wood. So in the poorest areas there has been widespread deforestation. "Haiti has suffered a catalogue of disasters in recent years," she added. "As well as being one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, the north west of the country has suffered widespread crop failures for the past three years. "There was a political crisis in January, when former President Aristide was forced to flee following a violent uprising. And in May there were severe floods which left 2,000 dead or missing." Speaking from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Helen Spraos, Christian Aid's field officer in Haiti, explained: "Extreme poverty forces people to migrate in search of work and many are living in makeshift shelters. Parts of Haiti are very mountainous and the most vulnerable tend to live on steep hillsides or in ravines." Over the next few weeks the need for emergency aid will be acute. There is already a shortage of clean water because precarious drainage systems have been damaged. Christian Aid's work is focussed on long-term development. It works with partner organisations to shore up the rural economy and discourage migration. One project sells chickens and goats at low cost so that farmers can use them for breeding, consumption and selling. This improves both nutrition and cash flow in the household. Another key aim of the programme is to build up rural livelihoods so that people aren't driven from their land in search of work. Several hurricanes have hit the Caribbean in recent weeks, most notably Ivan and Frances. Jeanne was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm before it hit Haiti, but the devastation it wrought was much greater than in Jamaica, for example. Source: Christian Aid

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