Haitian food crisis triggers rapid response
Past District Governor Dick McCombe Photo Courtesy Dick McCombe
As a global food crisis sent shockwaves around the world earlier this year, a Bahamian district governor used contacts from the 2007 International Assembly to help his Caribbean neighbors.
Population growth, increased demand, and climate change have all contributed to spikes in food prices that left millions hungry and spurred protests throughout the developing world. In Haiti, where most people live on less than US$2 a day, riots killed six people and led to the prime minister’s dismissal in mid-April.
When Dick McCombe, 2007-08 governor of District 7020, heard the news, he contacted his assembly “classmates” — fellow district governors he had met during the training meeting. Those in zones 33 and 34, which cover the Caribbean, Guyana, Suriname, and part of the United States, worked with their clubs to raise US$30,000 for emergency food supplies. District 7020, which encompasses 10 Caribbean countries and geographic areas, raised an additional $32,000.
McCombe also tapped Rotary contacts with disaster relief experience.
“Within one week, we established a Haiti emergency response team and had involved all 15 Haitian Rotary clubs — approximately 300 Rotarians working under the guidance of the assistant governors, a Haiti task force, past district governors, and our district disaster relief chair,” he says.
By the end of April, 285,000 prepackaged meals supplied and packed by Rotarians were being distributed. By June, plans to deliver another 1.4 million meals were underway.
But Rotarians are looking beyond short-term solutions for a country that must depend largely on food imports because of its own low food production.
“We know that the situation — because of the global economy and the increased cost of the commodities — will only get worse, so we have embarked on a program to develop sustainable agricultural projects throughout the country through microcredit initiatives,” McCombe explains.
Plans to seek support from The Rotary Foundation are in progress, and Rotary clubs have partnered with charities such as Hope for Haiti and Lifeline Christian Mission. McCombe says he also picked up ideas for the project at the 2008 RI Convention in Los Angeles.