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Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

  • Category: Pics  |
  • 23 Mar, 2009  |
  • Views: 8759  |
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud.

1 Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies.

Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.


2 Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

The mud has long been used by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings, and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt, and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds, 3 ounces, he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky, too," she said.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher prices for oil, which is needed for fertilizer, irrigation, and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

The global price increases, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit last month to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large, regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.


3 Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

At the market in the La Saline slum, a two-cup portion of rice now sells for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk, and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared with food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.


4 Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies.

Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which Fort Dimanche is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.


5 Haitians trick empty bellies with dirt cookies

Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.

Haitian doctors say that depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

"Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it," said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, head of Haiti's health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me."

+ video

Text: bostom.com


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№1 Author: ash666 (23 Jul 2009 10:35) Total user comments: 1856


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woooooo
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№2 Author: Sativa (29 Jul 2009 22:04) Total user comments: 263


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That's so sad.
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№3 Author: tapatio (27 Sep 2009 13:39) Total user comments: 2047


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and what is worst is that they eat those and wash`em down with cows urine....
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№4 Author: salsapopo (8 Oct 2009 13:09) Total user comments: 12723


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wooooooow
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№5 Author: nolife (9 Dec 2009 04:26) Total user comments: 1907


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№6 Author: panniyar (11 Dec 2009 05:21) Total user comments: 5


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its so sad, in many parts of the world ,we are wasting food and water like anything and these guys have to sum up on dirt
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№7 Author: Random (16 Dec 2009 21:24) Total user comments: 0


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That's terrible- those poor people would be in shock if they saw how wastefull some ( ok, most) americans are...
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№8 Author: Real Deaf (24 Feb 2010 11:44) Total user comments: 1371


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№9 Author: cherrygarcia14 (27 Jan 2011 19:49) Total user comments: 2278


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11 11
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№10 Author: Forfattare (18 Apr 2013 20:56) Total user comments: 897


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and little Caesars throw away pizzas with more than a half an hour on the shelf, sad indeed
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