With the support of WFP, the internationally renowned hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is this week convening the Yéle Fest – a one-week event that will use culture and the arts to engage Haitian youth in exploring ways to boost sustainable development in Haiti.
Wyclef Jean very cleverly uses culture as a means of addressing contemporary social issues
WFP Representative in Haiti, Mamadou Mbaye
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and one of the most disadvantaged countries in the developing world. It ranks 153 out of 177 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index (2005).
The Yéle Fest takes place at the same time and place as another important cultural event in Haiti – the Jacmel Film Festival.
The two events will culminate in Wyclef Jean’s first concert in his native Haiti for eight years, which will take place on 1 December on a waterfront pier.
Through his organisation Yéle Haiti, multiple Grammy Award-winning artist and producer Wyclef Jean has redefined the term social entrepreneur.
His view is that Yéle is more than just another NGO, but a movement combining the power of music with the tools of development in the areas of education, health, environment and community development.
Haitian youth identity
“When I started this foundation, I said that it was not a charity foundation. It is a movement and I am happy to see that Haitian youth identify itself with this movement,” says Wyclef Jean.
Yéle Haiti and WFP started their still growing partnership in June 2005 by undertaking joint food distributions in two of the Port-au-Prince’s most violent and vulnerable neighbourhoods – Cite Soleil and Bel Air.
At that time, large scale food distributions had come to a complete halt due to the prevailing level of danger and violence.
Teaming up with Yéle Haiti, who enlisted local hip hop musicians to deliver rice, beans and vegetable oil to the neediest families, allowed WFP to reach out to some of the most vulnerable people in Haiti at a time of very difficult access.
The Yéle Haiti/WFP food distributions were one of the first projects of Yele Haiti.
Since the launch of the cooperation, food distributions have been carried out twice a month, assuring an average of 8,000 families a month a much needed nutritious food ration.
According to the WFP Representative in Haiti, Mamadou Mbaye, the partnership between WFP and Wyclef has helped WFP give voice to the millions of Haitians marred by poverty malnutrition and lack of education and healthcare.
But for WFP, the cooperation with Wyclef Jean is also an important lesson learned in how a country’s natural capacities can be used to contribute to fighting its vulnerabilities, such as using culture and art as a channel to involve people in improving their lives.
"Wyclef Jean very cleverly uses culture as a means of addressing contemporary social issues, for he has seen the importance of art and culture in enhancing and changing people’s lives in all areas of society”, said Mbaye.
In Haiti, WFP is currently assisting 850,000 people with targeted distributions to malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and people affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as providing food to primary school children under its school feeding program.
More than 75 percent of Haitians live on less than US$2 per day, while 55 percent live on less than US$1 per day.
Chronic malnutrition is widespread among the most vulnerable, with severe or moderate stunting affecting up to 42 percent of children under five.
Easily preventable illnesses like malnutrition and diarrhoea account respectively for 28 percent and 20 percent of all under-five deaths.
Food supply covers only 55 percent of the population and daily food insecurity affects 40 percent of Haitian homes.
Haiti ranks along with Afghanistan and Somalia as one of the three countries of the world with the worst daily caloric deficit per inhabitant (460 kcal/day) and 2.4 million Haitians cannot afford the minimum 2,240 daily calories recommended by the World Health Organization.