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Hunger in Martinique

Hunger in MartiniqueMartinique is a satellite nation of France located in the Caribbean. Its economy is supported by the production of items like rum, sugar and bananas, and by the spending of the French government. This makes the nation better off than some of its Caribbean nation neighbors.

On the World Food Programme’s 2011 Hunger Map, Martinique was listed as a Category 1 country, with less than five percent of its population undernourished and experiencing hunger. This puts Martinique at extremely low risk for hunger and malnutrition, on a similar level as countries like the United States.

More concerning for Martinique is the presence of a dangerous pesticide, Chlordecone – found in the soil and in plants – that has been causing inflated rates of prostate cancer in men for decades. It is estimated that 80,000 people or more in Martinique live in areas where the soil is contaminated by Chlordecone. About 13,000 of these people absorb much more than the recommended daily dose of the pesticide just by eating their own plants and produce that they’ve grown themselves.

Fisheries have also suffered from the effects of Chlordecone poisoning, as many lobsters and fish in the area contain an unsafe level of the toxin. Poor people and farmers are most affected by these rates of poisoning because of the loss of fisheries and agriculture.

For every 100,000 men in Martinique, 227 have prostate cancer – an alarming rate considering the drastically lower numbers in neighboring countries. Prostate cancer, along with breast cancer in women and cognitive malfunctioning in children, has been linked to exposure to Chlordecone.

It is estimated that it will take another 600 years to reduce the current amount of Chlordecone in the ground, so this is a problem that aid groups and foreign countries must help the people of Martinique learn to live with.

Recently, the French Overseas Minister to Martinique, Victorin Lorel, has created a $2.66 million aid package for Martinique’s fishermen to ease current and future industry loss. He has also promised a new and “ambitious plan” for fisheries in Martinique and other French islands.

The European Union has similarly allocated €520,951,695 to Martinique between 2014 and 2020. This money is intended to rebuild infrastructure, implement sustainable energy production, improve the skills of poor people in Martinique, and ultimately raise quality of life by lowering the poverty rate.

There are many other organizations involved in solving the problem of hunger in Martinique; their projects include setting up food and clothing drives to raise necessary funds. With continued efforts, it is possible that the poverty rate in Martinique will decrease, which will in turn have a positive effect on reducing hunger due to Chlordecone poisoning.

Saru Duckworth

Photo: Pixabay