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UN food agency backs hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean at festival to boost Haiti’s development

UN food agency backs hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean at festival to boost Haiti’s development

Supported by the United Nations food agency, internationally renowned hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is convening a one-week festival in Haiti aimed at using culture and the arts to encourage young people to help boost sustainable development in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country.

The Yéle Fest is also taking place at the same time as another important cultural event in Haiti – the Jacmel Film Festival, and both events will culminate on Friday in Mr. Jean’s first concert in his native country for eight years, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today.

“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 WFP’s Representative in Haiti, Mamadou Mbaye.

Mr. Jean’s organization Yéle Haiti and WFP started their growing partnership in June 2005 by undertaking joint food distributions in two of the Haitian capital’s most violent and vulnerable neighbourhoods – Cité Soleil and Bel Air.

“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 Mr. Jean, who envisions Yéle Haiti as combining the power of music with the tools of development in the areas of education, health, environment and community development.

Teaming up with Yéle Haiti, which 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 because of violence.

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 programme.

As well as being the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is also one of the most disadvantaged countries in the developing world and ranks 153 out of 177 countries on the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index (2005).

More than 75 per cent of Haitians live on less than $2 per day, while 55 per cent live on less than $1 per day. Chronic malnutrition is widespread among the most vulnerable, with severe or moderate stunting affecting up to 42 per cent of children under five.