Official: Haiti drought causes 'extreme emergency'


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A drought is causing an “extreme emergency” in northeast Haiti, wiping out sorely needed crops and livestock, an official said today.

Pierre Gary Mathieu of the government’s National Coordination of Food Security told The Associated Press that the eight-month-long drought in the region has caused the loss of two harvest seasons. It will take the area six months to recover, he added.

“That’s a major problem,” Mathieu said.

The hardship is becoming especially evident in schools where there’s food for students but no water to cook. Some schools have neither food nor water, Mathieu said.

The usually arid area has seen some rain lately but not enough to replenish crops.

Government officials plan to distribute seeds to farmers and food to others. Officials are due to meet this Thursday with humanitarian workers to figure out how to coordinate a response, Mathieu said.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS NET, a U.S.-government financed program that tracks weather patterns, agricultural production and food prices in an effort to offset famine, describes worrisome conditions for Haiti’s northeast.

Until last November, rainfall was evenly distributed in most of the country’s crop-producing areas during production cycles. But a second rainy season that normally begins in August didn’t begin until two to three weeks later, and northeastern Haiti received very little of that rainfall.

Though Mathieu said the drought has lasted eight months, FEWS NET reports that rains ended in late October — two months earlier than usual. This reduced the size of the area that is normally planted with such crops as okra, squash and sweet potatoes.