24 April 2008 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has written to more than a dozen key Member States, asking for their urgent assistance in addressing the situation in Haiti, which has witnessed violent protests in recent weeks over rising food prices and a rapid deterioration in socio-economic conditions that threatens to undo the gains achieved by the tiny nation.
Haiti – already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere – has been hit particularly hard by the recent surge in the price of basic foods.
Mr. Ban “noted that the rise in the prices of certain staple commodities had led to increased popular frustration, which found expression in a number of demonstrations, some violent, earlier this month,” his spokesperson told reporters.
“It is the Secretary-General's view that Haiti is making significant progress towards political, economic and social stability and that it is crucial to avoid backsliding, which could unravel the many gains achieved over the past four years,” said Marie Okabe.
The UN system will do everything in its capacity to assist Haiti, she added. However, real progress will also require urgent support from donors, including in-kind contributions and funds to help fill short-term needs and the requirements of ongoing programmes.
Last week the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Haiti said the country will remain in an extremely precarious economic and humanitarian situation unless it receives an urgent injection of funds to widen emergency feeding operations, extend existing job programmes and jump-start agricultural activity.
“If we don't react very strongly, then we could find ourselves in a very difficult state,” said Joël Boutroue. “The level of poverty, combined with the lack of coping mechanisms for the poorest Haitians, means we have the potential for a very explosive situation.”
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