FOND-DES-BLANCS, Haiti — Before the earthquake that changed everything, Chlotilde Pelteau and her husband lived a supremely urban existence. A cosmetics vendor and a mechanic, they both enjoyed a steady clientele and a hectic daily routine, serenaded by the beeping cars and general hubbub of Port-au-Prince
Indeed, some have already returned to the capital seeking the international aid that is concentrated there. But if the reverse flow continues, it could undermine a primary goal of the Haitian government and the international community: to use the earthquake as a catalyst to decentralize Haiti and resuscitate its agricultural economy, said Nancy Dorsinville, a special adviser to Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to Haiti.
“If we really mean what we say about decentralization, then we have to think fast about a more robust distribution of food to the countryside, cash-to-work programs there, and assistance to agriculture,” Ms. Dorsinville said.
Decentralization has long been championed by many advocates for Haiti because the countryside endured decades of neglect while the Port-au-Prince area gained dysfunctional congestion. Now, with the capital city battered, it has become a policy buzzword, even as food is growing ever scarcer in the countryside.
“It is only a matter of time before we start seeing severe malnutrition in Fond-des-Blancs,” said Conor Shapiro, director of the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, which runs a 60-bed hospital and community development organization here.