Haiti sanctions allegedly kill children 1,000 are found to die each month

November 09, 1993|By Howard W. French | Howard W. French,New York Times News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- An oil embargo and other sanctions designed to help restore democracy to Haiti are killing as many as 1,000 children each month, according to a study to be released this week by international public health experts at Harvard University.

The study, entitled "Sanctions in Haiti: Crisis in Humanitarian Action," reports that although international attention has focused largely on killings and political terrorism in Haiti since the September 1991 coup that deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide: "The human toll from the silent tragedy of humanitarian neglect has been far greater than either the violence or human rights abuses."

Normally, nearly 3,000 children aged 5 or younger die in Haiti every month. According to the study, that figure has increased by about a 1,000 each month. There are about a million children under the age of 5 in Haiti, which has a population of about 7 million.

The study also found that the embargo had contributed to as many as 100,000 new cases of moderate to severe malnutrition.

The Harvard report, like the assessments of relief organizations here, finds that the international embargoes, imposed, relaxed, then reimposed since the military coup, have ravaged this country.

Although all of the embargoes that have been imposed on Haiti since the coup have made exceptions for relief supplies, the Harvard study still found the impact of sanctions to be severe.

"Food and medicines are exempted from embargoes, so everyone assumes that everything will be all right," said Lincoln C. Chen, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. "But what we have found is that even when they are not legally impeded, these kinds of things are practically impeded."

The study's findings on child mortality were based in large part on projections made from what researchers said was the only high quality, long-term tracking of births and deaths in rural Haiti.

The Harvard researchers leaned heavily on that study, conducted by the Save the Children project in the town of Maissade in Haiti's Central Plateau region. Mr. Chen said that the study of the individual community was representative enough to serve as a base for a national projection.

Dr. Chen said that the United States and other donors should set up what he called a "humanitarian corridor" into Haiti, to assure delivery of vital supplies needed to stem the growing death toll from disease and hunger.

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