Haitians Eat Dirt Cookies
(Written by Fr. Marc Boisvert, February 2008)
As I write this message, there are headlines in newspapers across the world talking about the poor in Haiti being forced to eat cakes or cookies made from dirt because the price of food is out of reach. The practice of eating dirt cookies is pretty common here in Haiti. The dirt that is used is high in clay content believed to have some kind of nutritional benefit. It is mixed with water, salt and vegetable shortening before it is shaped into cookies or cakes, and left to dry in the sun. Since 2 cups of rice costs 60 cents and a dirt cookie is only 5 cents, the cookies made from dirt are an attractive option, especially among pregnant women and children looking to ward off hunger pains.
While hungry Haitians praise these dirt cookies as an antacid which helps with diarrhea and provides calcium, experts don’t give dirt cookies the same high marks. Often the dirt will contain microscopic parasite eggs that are dormant. Upon entering the digestive tract, those eggs become active and hatch parasites in the person who ate the cookie.
Unfortunately, the cost of food fueled by exorbitant gas and diesel prices is out of control here and most people can’t afford to buy what they used to just a few months ago. This means that more Haitians will be relying on dirt cookies for sustenance. We are seeing longer lines at our gate, more children looking for food, and more children pulled out of school as parents have to choose between food and education for their offspring. The situation is explosive and manifestations have already started. Most of them have been non-violent but things could deteriorate quickly if prices are not brought under control soon.
We are victims of this situation, too. Our food expenditures are taking up more and more of our monthly budget which means there’s less for operating expenses, less for medical care, less money to buy needed clothing, less money to pay people who need to work. It is incredibly difficult to see the poor struggle so hard and not be able to make ends meet.
Your support is absolutely essential in order for us to continue helping these children and those who wait outside our gates. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word so others can become part of the solution to the huge problems facing Haitian children. May God, the Father of us all, bless you.
Free the Kids (formerly Theo’s Work, Inc.) a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. www.FreeTheKids.org