SOURCE: CMC: Two United Nations agencies have warned of “catastrophic” hunger being recorded in Haiti for the first time.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said that “an unrelenting series of crises has trapped vulnerable Haitians in a cycle of growing desperation, without access to food, fuel, markets, jobs and public services”.
The agencies said that hunger has reached a “catastrophic level” – the highest level, 5, on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification index, or IPC – in the capital’s Cité Soleil neighbourhood.
According to the latest IPC analysis, a record 4.7 million people are currently facing acute hunger (IPC 3 and above), including 1.8 million people in Emergency phase (IPC 4) and, for the first time ever in Haiti, 19,000 people are in the catastrophe phase, phase 5.
FAO and WFP said that, currently, 65 per cent of Cité Soleil’s population, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, are in high levels of food insecurity, with five per cent of them in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
“Increased violence, with armed groups vying for control of the vast and now lawless area of Port-au-Prince, has meant that residents have lost access to their work, markets and health and nutrition services,” the agencies said, “Many have been forced to flee or just hide indoors.”
FAO and WFP said food security has also continued to deteriorate in rural areas in Haiti, with several going from crisis to emergency levels.
Harvest losses due to below- average rainfall and the 2021 earthquake that devastated parts of the Grand Anse. Nippes and Sud departments are among the other devastating factors, beyond the political and economic crisis, FAO and WFP said.
“WFP stands with the people of Haiti, serving the vulnerable and helping the poorest,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP Country Director in Haiti. “We are here to ensure schoolchildren get a nutritious meal each day, families meet their basic food needs and communities are empowered.”
“This is a time of tumult in Haiti,” he added, “But there is a way forward. We all need to be steadfast, and focus on delivering urgent humanitarian assistance and supporting long-term development.”
José Luis Fernández Filgueiras, FAO representative in Haiti, said, “We need to help Haitians produce better, more nutritious food to safeguard their livelihoods and their futures, especially in the context of a worsening food crisis.”
“Resource mobilization efforts must be scaled up in order to strengthen the resilience of households targeted by emergency food assistance to increase their self-reliance,” he added.
The UN said that, for years, natural hazards and political turmoil have taken a toll on Haitians who were already in need in both rural and urban areas.
“The onset of the global food crisis, with rising food and fuel prices, has led to growing civil unrest that has plunged Haiti into chaos, completely paralysing economic activities and transport,” the UN said. “The basic food basket is out of reach for many Haitians. Inflation stands at a staggering 33 per cent, and the cost of petrol has doubled.”
Despite the volatile security situation in the capital, Port-au-Prince, WFP said it provided more than 100,000 people with emergency assistance in the metropolitan area in 2022.
WFP said its focus remains on strengthening national social protection and food systems that are central to the country’s recovery efforts and long-term development.
Over the next six months, WFP said it requires US$105 million for crisis response, and to tackle root causes and bolster the resilience of Haitians.
The FAO said it has been providing emergency livelihoods support to small-scale vulnerable farming households.
During the autumn agricultural season starting this month, FAO said it aims to reach close to 70,000 people with cash for work, food crop production assistance, goat and poultry breeding assistance, and food storage and processing support for school feeding programmes.
FAO said it urgently requires some US$33 million to assist more than 470,000 of the most vulnerable people.
While the agencies continue operating in Haiti as the security situation allows, the UN said increased insecurity, violence and lack of fuel are hampering humanitarian operations, “which are critical for the most vulnerable Haitians”.
In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that nearly 100,000 children under the age of five, who are already suffering from severe acute malnutrition – also known as severe wasting – are especially vulnerable to the ongoing cholera outbreak affecting Haiti.
UNICEF said that, at a time when much of the French-speaking Caribbean country is facing growing food insecurity, “acutely malnourished children have weakened immune systems, and they are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera, further reinforcing the need for urgent action to contain the disease”.
Since cholera was first reported on October 2, 2022, UNICEF said there have been 357 suspected cases, with more than half of these in children under 14.