Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies To Survive

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Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies To Survive

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[Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies To Survive]

[Benno Schmidt (Worldfocus):] Source: LYBIO.net
They look a lot like pancakes or cookies, the recipe passed down for generations here in Haiti. Women spend entire days making them, grandmothers, daughters, younger girls. Infants are nursed while mothers work the mix. Kids seemed to enjoy them, at least when our camera was around, but these patties known as Bon Bon Terres by the Haitians who eat them are a grim reminder of just how poor this Caribbean nation is. They aren’t sweet. They’re hard to swallow and add almost nothing in terms of nutrition because the cookies are actually made of dirt.

[Voice Over:]
It fills your stomach. When we haven’t eaten anything, this dirt cookie fills your stomach.

Traded, sold and even hoarded by women here in the poorest section of the poorest country in Western Hemisphere Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Small amounts of vegetable shortening, salt, and occasionally sugar, are mixed in with the dirt and water as well, made in places like this, an old fort where torture was once common by corrupt dictators here. The Fort Dimanche is now a center of commerce built around the dirt cookies. A basketball court, soccer field and school for hundreds of kids and home to many.

[Benno Schmidt:]
To get to the basketball court which acts as a preparation area for the dirt cookies, you have to cross this open sewer which is littered with animal parts and trash and other nasty things, to get to an area where the cookies are laid out to dry out in the sun. You can see that these are still very wet, not quite ready to be served. But this is literally dirt being prepared for humans to eat on top of other dirt and filth.

Celaine Denies life revolves around the cookies. For days we watched as the grandmother sat mixing the dirt cookie batter. Selling the cookies is Denies sole source of income and often her only food.

[Celaine Denies:] Source: LYBIO.net
It’s a necessary evil. I’m in a bad situation and that’s why I make them. It hurts my heart, but I have no choice. We’re forced to eat it. It makes us sick, but not the way it would to anybody who’s not used to eating it. Our system is kind of used to it.

[Benno Schmidt:]
The dirt is trucked into this huge slum and sold at an enormous mark-up to the women, who pay about $5 a sack. They say it comes from an area in the mountains and are convinced the dirt is rich in minerals and vitamins. And if they don’t have the money, they’re happy, indeed, eager to buy the dirt on credit. If it rains or the sun is blocked, the cookies can’t dry out, and women actually end up owing money on the dirt they purchased. Not a drop of batter is wasted. And throughout Haiti, the cookies are seen in the urban markets and small mountain villages. We rarely saw adults eating the cookies, as many seemed ashamed. Kids, however, asked repeatedly why we were so interested before freely eating them.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Haiti says the need for dirt cookies is an indictment of government failure and waste. The $0.05 cookies, a necessity in Haiti, imported food too expensive for families living on about $1 a day.

[Joel Boutroue (United Nations Mission, Haiti):]
Some 3.3 million Haitians are food insecure today. Around 25% of the children are chronically malnourished. These are the same indicators as in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Pregnant women have long eaten the cookies for their supposed source of calcium and antacid benefits. But doctors dispute this and warn of tooth decay, constipation and worse. The United States ambassador to Haiti has taken a personal interest in lessening dependence on the cookies.

[Janet Sanderson (US Ambassador To Haiti):]
I’ve actually taken members of Congress down to Cité Soleil and they’ve seen it, too.

[Benno Schmidt:]
What do they say when they see people eating dirt?

[Janet Sanderson:]
Janet Sanderson: Well, it’s worrisome. It’s very worrisome and we don’t like to see it.

[Benno Schmidt:]
Since the UN arrived in Haiti in 2006 as peacekeepers, nutrition has improved in pockets, but the dirt cookies are still being eaten. The widespread hunger means hundreds of kids starting another school day in Cité Soleil as the Haitian flag is raised, will be reduced to eating dirt. This, despite international efforts.

[Joel Boutroue (United Nations Mission, Haiti):]
There is hope, by the way. There is hope. Because despite these bleak picture, it is doable to lift Haiti out of poverty.

[Benno Schmidt:] Source: L Y B I O . N E T
But even the most optimistic observers agree the future is bleak for these kids without two elements long missing in Haiti, money and a stable government. Reporting in Cité Soleil, Haiti, this is Benno Schmidt for Worldfocus.

Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies To Survive

Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies To Survive

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