‘Catastrophic’ Hunger Recorded in Haiti, UN Warns

Haiti being a very hazard prone environment, the repeated crisis has been one of the key reasons for the country to be pushed into catastrophic levels of hunger. At least 4.7 million people are facing acute food insecurity and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has raised its assessment of the nation’s hunger to Level 5, its most dire ranking.

The key driving factors to the food crisis are: existing gang violence, extreme weather conditions such as drought and the economic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine and Covid- 19 pandemic. The gang violence in Haiti has been one of the major reasons for causing the food crisis. A coalition of gangs has prevented the distribution of diesel and gasoline for over a month to protest a plan to cut fuel subsidies. Due to this transport has come to a halt and looting and gang shootouts have become increasingly common. This gang violence has cut off the capital from the food producing south. The country also suffered from a massive earthquake of 7.2 magnitude on 14th August 2021 which had worsened the pre-existing food crisis. Haiti’s agricultural sector is weakening, and it depends on imports for more than 50 percent of its food consumption. Haiti has lost its ability to feed itself due to some of the choices the country has made in the past. In the 1980s, the Haitian rice tariff was brought down from 30 percent to almost zero which bankrupted the farmers of the country and made them less competitive leading to the rice production to plunge. Furthermore, the Russia – Ukraine war has further disrupted food supplies and the prices have reached an all-time high.

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 has warned. The first cholera outbreak was reported in Haiti in October 2010. Due to malnourishment from the growing food insecurity children have weakened immune systems and are three times more likely to die if they contract the disease which reinforces the need for urgent action to contain the disease. There are 357 suspected cases as of 2nd October 2022 with more than half of these in children below the age of 14. The health systems have also been sucked dry due to the gang blockade of fuel as the primary hospitals of the country rely on diesel generators for electricity

The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided more than 100,000 people with emergency assistance and its focus is on strengthening the national social protection and food systems which are crucial for the country’s long-term development. Over the next six months, WFP requires US$ 105 million for crisis response and to tackle root causes and bolster the resilience of Haitian. There has also been question of whether the money that comes in as aid will reach the people in need and not get exploited by the gangs in the country. While the agencies continue operating in Haiti as the security situation allows, increased insecurity, violence and lack of fuel are hampering humanitarian operations which are critical for the most vulnerable Haitians.