Food riots have started in Haiti. Actually started last week in the usually sleepy town of Les Cayes. Four people were killed in relation to that.
Now the people are protesting in the streets of PAP, burning tires, disrupting public transportation and the UN tanks and troops are called in to try to calm things down and keep order.
They have good reason to protest. They're hungry. Food prices have escalated 50% in the past year.
Fifty percent. Can you imagine living on $1 a day and your grocery bill rises 50%?
It's so discouraging to see this... It's a sad sad circle. Only a couple of months ago I was in Cite Soleil, walking the streets, visiting the people, and I've never seen it that quiet. I was so enthusiastic and happy because I thought, "Now we can finally get some work done here."
I met a little girl named Nelda, only 8, who had one cup of rice to share with her two siblings. Her mother was at the market, trying to earn money, so Nelda was the babysitter. Tears trickled down her cheeks as Nelda told me that when she sees her little brother and sister crying because they are hungry, she doesn't have any hope and she cries as well.
Can you imagine being eight years old, and instead of worrying about your Heelies getting worn down, or having a crush on the boy in your homeroom or making soccer practice, you are crying because your brother and sister are sobbing from hunger?
These kids, and there are hundreds of thousands in Haiti like Nelda, know the real, grinding pain of hunger. The kind that makes them drink salt water, gnaw on their fingers, do anything just to try to get rid of that clenching pain.
Now the people are rioting in the streets because they have no food. Small protests by Haiti's standard, only about 1,000, but still the burning tires and the violence (they are even attacking some journalists and photographers) are enough to bring things, once more, to a dead halt.
Next week I'll be at RT in Pittsburgh, signing books, meeting readers, booksellers, friends and plugging The Scorpion & the Seducer. RT is like another world for me, away from the reality of poverty and violence and rising food prices and struggling to help little girls like Nelda.
I'll be at RT, and there will be cover models and parties and friends.
In the meantime, Nelda is still in Cite Soleil, trapped by poverty, violence and the agony of hunger. When will she finally have hope?
When will Haiti finally get help?