A growing crisis is pushing a higher number of people into hunger in Haiti, the UN food agency warned on Thursday.
“Haiti can’t wait,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for the country. “We cannot wait for the scale of the problem to be expressed in deaths before the world responds, but that is where we are heading.”
Half the population – 4.9 million people – are now struggling to access food, according to the new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis. Findings reveal a substantial increase in the number of severely hungry people in Haiti, with the number tripling since 2016.
Eight out of ten Haitians are currently spending less on meals, and the country is among the top ten most affected by food price inflation, according to the World Bank.
Farmers crippled by violence, high costs
Farmers have been forced to reduce areas sown due to the high cost of seeds and fertilizers at a time when the spread of armed groups has plagued rural areas with violence.
The multiple emergencies are having a significant impact on the health and nutrition of Haitian children who have limited access to nutritious food. Malnourishment is compromising their immunity, making them vulnerable to diseases like cholera, and causing other lifelong health issues including poor cognitive development.
Life-saving food assistance needed
Sustained humanitarian aid has managed to support the most vulnerable communities in Cité Soleil, an area of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. However, WFP operations are underfunded and compromised and require $125 million over the next six months.
“It is critical that both life-saving food assistance keeps reaching the most vulnerable Haitians and resilience and safety-net initiatives continue being prioritized so we can address the root causes of hunger,” Mr. Bauer said. “We desperately need an increase in funding and political will to be mobilized. The world cannot wait for a big disaster before it acts.”
The agency’s focus remains on strengthening national social protection and food systems that are critical to Haiti’s recovery efforts and development. While it is certain that life-saving assistance is an urgent need, building long-term resilience for the people of Haiti needs to be a top priority, he said.