Alarming new hunger levels in Haiti: 1 in 3 people urgently need food aid

Report
from Action Against Hunger USA
Published on 18 Dec 2019 View Original

Rising political unrest and violence hamper access to aid

By: Emily Bell Tyree,
Head of Communications,
Action Against Hunger

With mounting violent unrest and pressure for President Jovenel Moïs to step down, 35 percent of the Haitian population – 3.67 million people – is now in urgent need of emergency food assistance.

In a statement, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Haiti, Cedric Piriou said:

“Our teams are committed to reaching those struggling to survive, but roads are often closed, essential commodities are scarce, and the threat of violence permeates our lives every day.

We are witnessing a political hunger crisis that grows by the day. The world cannot continue to stand by – we must respond to the complex ins and outs of this multifaceted emergency, which includes addressing a major food crisis and a crippling lack of access to basic services like clean water, health care, education, and safe sanitation.

Haiti entered these most recent months of political unrest as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with more than six million people living on less than $2.41 a day. Now, food insecurity has reached crisis levels. The humanitarian community is sounding the alarm, but once again, the world is not responding to a crisis in Haiti fast enough – if at all.”

The most vulnerable populations are particularly hard-hit by security issues, inflation and severe shortages in gas, food, and essential medicines. With fewer employment opportunities in rural areas, many men are moving to urban areas, leaving vulnerable women, children, and the elderly behind and at risk of exploitation and gender-based violence. Many mothers are struggling to support their households by working long hours in addition to childcare and household responsibilities.

Without immediate action, an anticipated 1.2 million people will be one step away from famine between March and June 2020. Overall, the number of Haitians facing serious food insecurity is expected to increase to 4.1 million in the coming months, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis. Rural areas in the North West, Artibonite, Nippes, and Grand'Anse are among the most affected, and have the highest percentage of people in need of immediate assistance. Their needs are compounded by a drop in agricultural production following the 2018 drought.

As a result of economic, social, and political instability, malnutrition has reached alarming levels and is expected to worsen in the months ahead. In some communities, such as Thiotte and Belle-Anse, the rate of acute malnutrition exceeds 10 percent, a serious emergency by World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Chronic malnutrition affects more than 30% of the population in Thiotte and more than half of the population in Belle-Anse.

The additional burden facing women is one of the causes of increased malnutrition rates in children under five, according to a survey conducted by Action Against Hunger in Grand’Anse in September. This deterioration in nutritional status may be due to a number of factors, including a reduction in mothers’ breastmilk due to extreme stress, mothers not having enough time to breastfed, and mothers lacking the time or resources to adequately care for their children.

Concern for the worsening crisis led the U.S. Congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee to hold its first hearing on Haiti in six years. During the meeting on December 10, witnesses and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle discussed the crucial need for local, sustainable solutions created and led by Haitians.

Action Against Hunger's Work in Haiti

In Haiti, Action Against Hunger teams work to sustainably improve food and nutrition security by supporting savings and loans groups, creating income-generating activities, building water storage systems, training mothers to screen children for malnutrition, and improving sanitation in the hard-hit northeastern areas of the country. Through our social protection programs, we seek to support the most vulnerable households who suffer from economic insecurity and lack the means to provide for their basic needs. Action Against Hunger has been in Haiti since 1985 and 98 percent of 172 staff members are Haitian.

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.