Haiti (MNN) — Haitian President Rene Preval named a new prime minister on Sunday after lawmakers fired his predecessor to quell violent protests ignited by rising food prices in the impoverished Caribbean nation. 63-year-old Ericq Pierre, a respected Haitian economist with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, has been named to the post.
FARMS International operates a micro-finance program in Haiti. Farms' President Joseph Richter says one of their partners confirms the food crisis report: "Food prices there are ratcheting up and are really off the charts. Three cups of rice are selling now for $2.20, and three cups of beans $2.40. Cooking oil is about $2.50 usd per quart. Gas prices are at $7.00 a gallon, and diesel is at $4.00 a gallon."
Richter puts these prices in perspective. "The per capita income of Haitians is about $400 a year. Over 80-percent of the population of Haiti lives below the poverty line, and 50-percent of the population lives on less than 44-cents a day."
While civil unrest is common, it's not as common in outlying areas. Richter says, "There's always that possibility of major civil unrest in that country, and the missionaries are asking for a lot of prayer to see that situation calm down. What they is that Haitians don't realize this is happening around the globe."
According to Richter, the FARMS program is part of the answer to this crisis. "Certainly there has to be food aid and things like that to keep people from starving, but in the long run, people need to provide for themselves. A loan program like Farms International is a very effective way of helping these families do that."
FARMS has helped thousands of people over the years. As part of the program, participants agree not only to repay the loan but tithe to the local church. Richter says this is important. "A strong church can be a key to reaching out to a community in crisis. And without reserves and without money, a church cannot do very much, especially in these types of situations."
When a church reaches out, it provides a platform to share the Gospel.
When churches get involved in the community, it opens doors for evangelism. Richter says expanding the program in Haiti is essential. "It's one of the few countries of the world where the per-capita income has decreased every year in recent history. And I can't imagine living in that type of situation where every year things are getting worse instead of better."