Haiti Food Security Alert: November 6, 2008


Food insecurity caused by the Haiti's extreme vulnerability continues, and humanitarian aid is still inadequate. Only 48 percent of the USD 105.7 million emergency appeal issued by the Haitian government and UN agencies in response to the disasters of August and September has been funded. Two months after the hurricanes, parts of the country are still isolated, and severe malnutrition, aggravated by poor health, has claimed the lives of sixteen children and two adults in Baie d'Orange, a village in Belle Anse in the southeast of the country. Thus, there is still a need for short, medium, and long- term assistance.

Contrary to expectations, prices for certain staple foodstuffs have fallen on a number of regional markets since the storms. A six pound sack of imported Lucky rice, which had been selling for 203 gourdes in August, rose to 216 gourdes in September before dropping to 180 gourdes in October.  Likewise, black bean prices in Port- au- Prince went from 154 gourdes in August to 172 gourdes in September, falling back to 150 gourdes in October (Figure 1).  However, despite good staple food availability and the downturn in international market prices for grain and oil, food access is still a serious problem. Total losses from recent disasters weigh heavily on household income and livelihoods.

A single day of rain on October 29 in Dame Marie, in Grande Anse, destroyed about twenty homes and claimed the lives of seven villagers, reflecting the country's continued vulnerability to natural disasters two months after the last hurricanes. Moreover, losses of land along rivers and soil erosion in mountainous areas have hurt crop production potential, removing more fertile soil, reducing the amount of arable land available, and have disturbed an increasingly fragile ecosystem, possibly reducing biodiversity.  

While there has been some improvement in the coordination of sectoral interventions, targeting has been poor in certain areas due to information gaps and restricted access, and available resources are insufficient to meet established needs. In Baie d'Orange, severe malnutrition (associated primarily with poor access to food, drinking water, and health care) has claimed the lives of sixteen children and two adults - a reflection of what could happen in other regions that remain cut off from humanitarian aid.

Recommendations for the short and medium term include improving targeting efforts for sustained food assistance, repairing roads (to facilitate access to isolated areas) and irrigation systems under labor- intensive programs, providing microloans, reviving crop production activities, and bolstering the livestock- raising sector.  Long- term recommendations include integrated environmental and watershed management and development (establishment of seedbeds for agroforestry systems, recontouring of river beds, etc.), repairing irrigation infrastructure, and land use planning as a basis for the relocation of residents from high- risk and disaster- prone areas.

Looking ahead, an evaluation of the impact of recent storms and the framing of a response plan based on the joint "Post-Disaster  Needs  Assessment  (PDNA)" by  the  Haitian  government  and its  partners  are  still in  progress. The  report,  which should be released in mid- November, will provide more detailed information on needs for short, medium and long- term multisectoral responses.