Throughout history, misfortune has plagued Haiti. Just between 2010 and today, natural disasters and political instability have rendered it the poorest country in the Americas. As a result, the issue of hunger in Haiti has carried an overbearing toll on the country, only worsening in recent years. Political instability, natural disasters and subsequent gang violence and economic difficulties have made hunger a central threat to the livelihood of the Haitian population, and a crucial focus of relief agencies.
Decades of Instability
In the past 10 years alone, Haiti has struggled with at least four major political and natural disasters. Between 2000 and 2019, Haiti was the third country most affected by extreme weather patterns. Most notably, the 2010 earthquake and 2016 hurricane resulted in countless casualties and the destruction of infrastructure. Politically, the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise has triggered a period of instability. As a result, gang activity has been at a high, seeing a surge in violence with negative spillover effects. Gangs have taken control over ports in the capital of Port-au-Prince, as well as agricultural areas, resulting in widespread hunger.
Economic Fall Out
Severe inflation has resulted in an exponential rise in hunger in Haiti. As Haiti is a country that is highly dependent on food imports given its agricultural struggles, inflation levels are volatile and particularly contingent on the global economy. Currently, inflation levels stand at 44%. This means that food prices are virtually unaffordable for much of the population, with the price of a food basket increasing by 88% in 2023 alone. The combination of gangs controlling ports and food-producing areas with the spike in food prices has left many in Haiti with limited options for survival.
Haiti has one of the highest food insecurity levels in the world. As of 2021, its Human Development Index places it at 163 out of 191 countries. The past year has seen individuals continue to struggle at emergency levels. Almost 5 million people, half of the population, are in hunger and 1.8 million of them face severe starvation. Children are at particular risk, with 22% of Haiti’s children being malnourished, 10% underweight and 66% anemic. Experiencing hunger from such a young age places children in particularly vulnerable positions to a variety of health troubles that they are likely to experience into adulthood.
Help is on the Way
The United Nations has identified Haiti as one of the most pressing hunger “hotspots” in the world Despite the levels of hunger in Haiti, UN relief agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) have plans in place to aid the country. The biggest food safety net in the country is in the form of school feeding plans, with approximately 300,000 children being fed a day in more than 1,000 schools. WFP has also provided emergency food assistance to more than 150,000 people, as well as cash transfers to allow for independent allocation of resources. On top of these more direct aid efforts, WFP collaborates with communities to develop emergency preparedness and new farming techniques that will allow for long-term resilience in the face of such uncertain times.
Despite the scale of this aid, funding and donations are crucial to its maintenance. Donations and an upscale of attention from governments around the world are central to developing these funds. For 2023, the WFP is helping 1.47 million people through its various aid techniques. So far, as a part of those techniques, the WFP’s emergency assistance has helped countless people on the verge of starvation. In 2022, the WFP delivered food to 723,000 people, as well as transferred $22.9 million in cash to those in need.
In addition to emergency assistance, resilience programs were successfully implemented. Such programs included road and canal building, as well as tree planting. In total, these resilience programs reached 113,000 people, and strive to reach more in the coming year. Reaching funding goals has been crucial to these successes and in the future can dramatically improve levels of hunger in Haiti, saving even more lives than before.
– Lucie Dumont