Haiti: El Niño Response Plan - September 2016


Haiti was severely hit by drought for three consecutive years, which was exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon in 2015. Food insecurity and malnutrition have worsened dramatically and according to the National Coordination on Food Security there are about 300 000 households severely food insecure (Phase 3 of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification). Throughout 2015, agricultural production was deeply affected and the harvest of the main agricultural season (spring) decreased by over 50 percent. There is an urgent need to provide relief assistance to farming families of the hardest hit municipalities in the North-West and South-East departments along with certain areas of the Artibonite, Grand Anse, Nippes and South departments.

The purpose of the FAO Haiti El Niño Response Plan is to (i) contribute to improving the food security and nutrition of vulnerable populations affected by drought, (ii) strengthen their resilience and (iii) improve their livelihoods. FAO will follow a flexible and multidimensional operational strategy to address immediate and medium-term needs in order to facilitate rapid increases in food availability and access, and protect the overall food production capacity in the country as well as the livelihoods of affected populations.

FAO requests USD 7.9 million to support 35 000 vulnerable households (175 000 people). Planned activities will focus on the production and distribution of quality seeds, rehabilitation of water supply and collection systems, support to animal production and fodder banks, capacity development and trainings on good practices and technologies.


3.6 million people food insecure

50 percent decrease in crop production as a result of drought

The Republic of Haiti is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the western hemisphere, with 59 percent of people living in poverty and close to 25 percent in extreme poverty. This is exacerbated by the limited or lack of access to electricity, clean water, proper sanitation and healthcare. The humanitarian context remains complex due to multiple inter-linked risk factors, namely the: (i) persistence of cholera, (ii) aggravation of the food insecurity situation due to the El Niño phenomenon, (iii) bi-national mixed migration crisis with the Dominican Republic, (iv) remaining caseloads of internally displaced people from the 2010 earthquake and (v) the country’s high vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. Haiti, as part of the Small Islands Developing States, remains a largely fragile environment from governance and development perspectives. Given poverty, environmental degradation and limited capacity of authorities to respond to a crisis, the country is highly vulnerable to even moderate climate shocks. Over the last two decades, it has been repeatedly affected by severe natural disasters or emergencies, the most recent of which has been the persistent drought that has affected the country with major repercussions on food security and nutrition.

Food insecurity and malnutrition remain one of the heaviest burdens for the country, with one-third of Haiti’s population unable to meet their basic food requirements. The number of people experiencing severe acute food insecurity increased from approximately 65 000 in 2013 to 165 000 in 2014, and up to 560 000 in 2015. In February 2016, the National Coordination on Food Security (Conseil national de sécurité alimentaire [CNSA]) and the World Food Programme presented the Emergency Food Security Assessment. Results show that about 3.6 million people (720 000 households) ‒ 34 percent of a population of 10 million ‒ are food insecure. This includes 1.5 million people (300 000 households) severely food insecure, of which it is estimated that at least 200 000 households live in rural areas and the livelihoods of 120 000 depend exclusively on agricultural production. This particular category of people needs immediate agricultural assistance to restore their production, improve their livelihoods and reduce dependency on food assistance. In an effort to provide coordinated assistance to those most in need, FAO has identified 35 000 farming families in the most drought-affected municipalities (38 of 145) from the departments of Artibonite, Grande Anse, Nippes, Northwest, Southeast and South. Regarding youth, an estimated 130 000 children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition, of which approximately 56 000 are in need of immediate therapeutic feeding.

During the last three years, Haiti has been hit by severe climatic disturbances characterized by repeated episodes of drought followed by erratic rainfall. In 2015, the impact of the El Niño phenomenon has worsened the food security and nutrition situation and it is expected that several communes in the Northwest, Southeast and Central Plateau remain in Phase 3 (crisis) of the Integrated Food Security Phase classification. Regarding the agriculture sector, prolonged drought has led to a reduction of more than 50 percent of crop production for the 2015 main cropping season (spring) and has affected the other cropping seasons (summer and winter). As a result, food imports have increased and current food price levels remain high for imported staples such as maize meal and beans. To cope with high prices, people are substituting the consumption of these staple commodities for starchy roots and tubers, reducing purchases and/or increasing purchases on credit.

There is an urgent need for immediate relief-oriented assistance. Households facing acute food insecurity, require support to survive the lean season, prevent negative coping mechanisms (e.g. selling assets) and prepare for harvests. To increase the resilience of the population and ensure proper food security and nutrition, it is crucial to (i) improve access to basic agricultural inputs, (ii) safeguard animal production, support the recovery of degraded areas, (iii) increase access to specific social programmes (e.g. school feeding programme), (iv) boost access to clean water, improved hygiene and feeding practices, (v) increase access to preventive nutrition services, and (vi) address micronutrient deficiencies.

The wider effects of the El Niño phenomenon further exposes the country to the risk of droughts, hurricanes and flooding in the coming months. Considering the impact of drought on livelihoods and the high number of food insecure households, monitoring the development of the upcoming cropping season is important to assess the outlook for recovery. Vulnerable rural communities need support to implement risk mitigation measures and strengthen emergency preparedness. In case of no response and lack of rainfall, CNSA estimates that half of the population in Haiti could suffer severe food insecurity this year. Therefore, preparedness and capacity development are critical elements to mitigate drought impacts and empower the state to take over part of the burden.