Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mud Pies: Haitian Staple Food

This is dinner in Cité Soleil, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Do you remember playing in the mud as a child, making scrumptious mud pies? All that playing would make you hungry, so you'd go inside for lunch. Well, in Haiti, the mud pies are lunch.

People eat the mud pies, known as teh, to help quiet their excrutiating hunger pangs. You can watch a one-minute video of the mud pies being made here, although there seems to be some misinterpretation - the commentator opines it is a craving for something in the mud, not hunger, that drives people to eat it. But John Carrol, a doctor working in Haiti, says starvation is the main cause, although Pica, which occurs sometimes with iron deficiency anemia, may also be present.

You can read more about the mud pies on John Carrol's blog, Dying in Haiti or listen to this podcast (around 12 minutes), where Darren Ell interviews him about health in Haiti.

Something else that is very disturbing is the high rate of maternal mortality - 523 women die for every 100,000 who give birth. Most women give birth without a doctor or midwife, many completely alone.

Haiti's history is terribly sad. Christopher Columbus "discovered" it in 1492, and soon after, Europeans completely killed the indigenous population, in one of the worst genocides ever. Then it was repopulated, primarily by African slaves. Most Haitians are descendants of those slaves, who overthrew their French masters in the Haitian Revolution in 1804. Unfortunately this did not end colonial intervention. I recommend A People's History of the United States for more background.

The election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide offered a ray of hope for the poorest in Haiti, that sadly did not last, due to the US-backed coup and kidnapping of Aristide. Canada, too, was and is involved. Haiti continues to experience extreme poverty and repression. You can read about Canada's role here, or check out Znet's Haiti Watch.


Anonymous said...

As always, great post Red Jenny.

Another great book on the subject is The Black Jacobins by James.

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