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Haiti: gas shortages, tension and prayer.

Haiti (MNN) – You won’t see much of this story about Haiti showing up in mainstream news media.

Parts of Haiti are out of gas.

The shortage was first mentioned in December, with both National and Total’s gas stations out of stockFor Haiti With Love’s Eva DeHart says in Cap Haitien, where their ministry is headquartered, “Roseline (FHWL director) reports that there’s absolutely no gasoline at any of the stations.  (Parts of the country) have diesel, so the trucks can go, and anybody who is diesel (can continue work); our backup generator is diesel.”

(Photo courtesy For Haiti With Love)

A gas shortage doesn’t seem like a major crisis at first.   However, it’s more than fewer cars on the streets. It means that houses, hospitals, schools, and businesses can’t run their generators to keep their lights on or the equipment running.  There are some medical facilities still are working out of temporary buildings, reliant on generator-powered equipment, which means a fuel shortage can have devastating consequences.

The race is on to see if the government will respond quickly.   “Right now,” DeHart explains, “the pumps are totally surrounded by motorcycles and cars, waiting to see if there’s going to be fuel and/or if they open the pumps. But, if that doesn’t happen, there will be black market gasoline on the streets, before long.”

The other issue with a black market is security. ”People will pay whatever they have to pay to get a gallon of gas. But, if the government opens the pumps and supplies the gasoline to them but raises the price too high, even though it will be lower than the street price for the black market gas, there will be riots.”

Fuel riots in July

Things in Haiti have only just settled down after violent protests broke out six months ago over fuel prices.  In July, the government hiked prices 38 percent on gas, 47 percent on diesel and 51 percent on kerosene.  Within one day, the government reversed the price hikes. As part of a financial agreement struck with the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, the government had agreed to the increases, because it meant $ 96 million in low-interest loans and grants.

When asked if this was a similar situation, DeHart demurred. She referenced the longstanding bilateral relationship between Venezuela and Haiti that has cooled over the last few years, restricting the access to low-cost fuel.  “I think it probably goes back more to something that might be going on in Venezuela than anything in Haiti, itself. It’s their supplier that’s not coming through.”

Watching, hoping, and praying

(Photo courtesy For Haiti With Love)

As to impact on FHWL, she notes that, “Since we’ve got everything set up either on solar on diesel, it will be the by-products of this (fuel shortage). We’re trying to finish a (Pilgrim #27) house. Getting those supplies will become more and more difficult if the fuel doesn’t start flowing.” Supplies for their burn clinic will still make it through, and they have some in stock.   The one area facing the possible effect of a gas shortage is their food program. “We don’t import the containers of food anymore. We buy locally, so their ability to transport that to a place where we can buy it will be impaired.”

Right now, tension is thick. It feels like anything could trigger a riot. There are large crowds  concentrated now around every service station. It’s hot and humid. Tempers fray. There’s “…the impatience of not being able to get what they need so they can go on about their day.”   If the government doesn’t resolve it soon, she warns “It will end up with manifestations.”

In asking for prayer for peace, she also adds, “In the middle of riots, there’s really not much witnessing you can do, so you turn to prayer. It’s like, ‘God, you have to handle this now. We really need your support. We really need this to calm down. Nobody will hear us now, but you can handle it, we know.’”

Header photo courtesy of For Haiti With Love.

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