Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and one of the most food-insecure places in the world. On a good day, electricity, running water and health care are scarce. Frequent natural disasters make it nearly impossible for families to grow enough food to feed themselves.
In the midst of ruinous economic and political upheaval, the coronavirus pandemic has arrived, threatening 1 million people who are already suffering from severe levels of hunger.
Two thirds of the population lacks access to adequate sanitation
Out of 10.7 million people, half are undernourished
Out of 188 countries, Haiti ranks 168 in human development
The Makings of a Catastrophe
Haiti’s ongoing political turmoil erupted in September 2019 as tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. The protests quickly turned violent and have continued. The precarious security situation combined with road blocks and political gridlock have led to a spike in hunger and made it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. The price of staple foods has increased by more than 22 percent in the last year while agricultural production has dropped by about 12 percent.Photo: WFP/Frantz Jean
Nearly 60 percent of Haitians live in poverty. Of those, nearly 25 percent live in extreme poverty. Half of the population earns less than $1 per day, making it enormously difficult for families to afford food and other necessities, like housing and health care. Education is often the first expense to be cut, so children are taken out of school, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hunger.Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli
Half of all jobs in Haiti are in agriculture and it accounts for 25 percent of the GDP. Most farms are small – averaging less than 2.5 acres – and low-quality land makes farming less-productive. Spotty land ownership and leasing regulations present significant problems to small-scale farmers, putting them at increased risk of food shortages.Photo: WFP/Thomas Freteur
Reliance on Imports
Despite its large agricultural sector, Haiti currently does not produce enough food to feed its population. More than 50 percent of the country's overall food needs, and close to 80 percent of its main staple, rice, are imported. This makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets.Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli
These issues are exacerbated by the fact that Haiti is especially prone to natural disasters. It is the fourth most weather-affected country in the world, according to the Climate Risk Index. Over the past two decades, severe storms, flooding, landslides, drought and earthquakes have overturned lives again and again. For people who are barely getting by, one strong storm can destroy everything.Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli
A magnitude 7 earthquake killed between 46,000 and 316,000 people
Hurricane Mathew left 806,000 people in need of urgent food assistance
Political unrest pushes 1M people into emergency levels of hunger
When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti’s southern coast on October 4th, 2016, it claimed the lives of more than 800 people, left extensive flooding and mudslides, damaged roads and buildings, and caused widespread electricity and water shortages. In this episode of Hacking Hunger, we hear about the storm from two different perspectives: Laura Cantave, a former WFP USA employee who was born in Haiti, and Alexis Masciarelli, a WFP Communications Officer who arrived in Haiti four days after the hurricane hit.
Hunger is hitting Haiti’s children the hardest
- 22% of children are chronically malnourished
- 10% of children are underweight for their age
- 66% of children under the age of 5 suffer from anemia
Helping Haitians Build Resilience
WFP has been present in Haiti for more than 50 years, focusing on four key areas of assistance: school meals, building resilience, nutrition interventions and disaster preparedness.
WFP delivers daily meals to 365,000 children in 1,400 schools. It’s the country’s largest food safety net, and the Government is on track to take over the program by 2030. WFP sources as much food as it can from local farmers to improve children’s dietary diversity and stimulate local markets.
Food for Assets
With this program, participants are given food in exchange for their work on community projects such as roads, dams and irrigation networks. These projects help build communities’ resilience and reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather while meeting immediate food needs.
Around the world, 45 percent of deaths among children under age 5 are caused by malnutrition. To prevent an increase in acute malnutrition in Haiti, WFP is providing supplementary food assistance to 41,000 children under 5, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
WFP works closely with the Haitian government to set up emergency radio communication centers that can be used during an emergency. And, every year, WFP pre-positions food before hurricane season, which covers the potential needs of up to 300,000 people for a month.