The Dominican Republic has a population of more than 10.5 million. Hunger remains a pressing issue for many people in this region, and the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020, the country’s annual GDP growth rate fell to -8%, in part because of COVID-19. This drastic drop has the potential to bring poverty rates up and leave many more families food insecure. Here are five facts affecting hunger in the Dominican Republic in the post-COVID-19 era.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Dominican Republic

  1. Hunger is more prevalent in the Dominican Republic than in neighboring regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean combined, 42.5 million people suffer from hunger, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report. This means that 6.5% of the regional population goes hungry. In the Caribbean alone, however, which is where the Dominican Republic is located, this percentage is significantly higher: 18.4% of the population is undernourished.
  2. Over 2 million people in the Dominican Republic suffer from poverty, making for a national poverty rate of 21%. This is a relatively high poverty rate. Since poverty and hunger go hand in hand, to solve hunger in the Dominican Republic, we also need to reduce poverty. Some progress has been made in this area. The poverty rate is on the decline. In 2014, the World Bank reported that the middle class outnumbered the poor for the first time ever. This progress is a sign that poverty in the Dominican Republic can be lessened significantly through further action.
  3. The limited access to healthy food that some families experience in the Dominican Republic contributes to the country’s high rate of anemia. Anemia affects 28% of children under five. The most common type of Anemia is Iron Deficiency Anemia, which is caused by a shortage of iron in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of anemia is often caused by a diet lacking in iron-rich foods. While the rate of children with anemia is still high, the World Food Programme and the government of the Dominican Republic have been able to drastically reduce this rate in the last few years. In 2010, the rate of children between 6 and 11 months diagnosed with anemia was 74.8% in 2010. By 2013, that rate had decreased to 27.3%.
  4. The Dominican Republic’s economy could crash in the near future, causing a surge in hunger. The Dominican Republic has decreased its tourism dramatically in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, the government of the Dominican Republic has suspended all cruise arrivals and set up roadblocks that deter international travel, among other preventative measures. Much of the Dominican Republic’s economy relies on tourism, and it may be damaged badly by the new rules that have been put in place in response to the virus. This damage to the economy could also cause a rise in hunger.
  5. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is perpetuated by natural disasters. Natural disasters are common, and they contribute to hunger. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery classifies the Dominican Republic as a “hotspot” for natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, almost a quarter of the population was affected by natural disasters. Natural disasters perpetuate hunger because they destroy the livelihoods of many people, leaving them without a source of income and therefore less access to food.


While hunger in the Dominican Republic is a serious issue, there are many organizations that are working to help solve it. For example, Food for the Hungry sponsors children through donations to make sure that they are able to eat. To date, the organization has sponsored 7,225 children. In the past, Food for the Hungry also helped provide aid to the country after natural disasters, such as Hurricane David and Tropical Storm Federico.

Another organization fighting hunger in the Dominican Republic is Food for the Poor. In 2019, the organization sent 50 truckloads of supplies to the Dominican Republic. These shipments included food as well as other necessities like educational supplies.


Hunger certainly isn’t a new problem in the Dominican Republic, but it is one that history shows can be ameliorated through focused humanitarian action. COVID-19, however, poses new problems and exacerbates some established ones. Economic instability and the curtailment of tourism have the potential to increase poverty rates that are already fairly high in the region. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is particularly hard on the region’s children, whose growing bodies are hardest hit by lack of nutrients. In order to assure a successful future for the Dominican Republic after COVID-19, attention needs to be given to the problem of hunger and malnutrition today.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

One in Three Going Hungry in the Dominican Republic
Close to one-third of the population in the Dominican Republic lives below the poverty line. With a thriving population of 10.65 million people, this means about 3.25 million are hungry in the Dominican Republic.

Nearly thirty years ago, the Dominican Republic was the fastest growing Latino economy in the world. And in the eyes of most tourists today, it still is. However, in 2003 the country succumbed to an economic crisis.

According to a report by the New York Times, Banco Intercontinental (Baninter Bank), Dominican Republic’s second-largest bank, collapsed due to greed and corruption, leaving the value of the peso almost null and void and the country’s economy in economic shock—2.2 billion dollars-worth of shock. In short, the government crumbled, prices skyrocketed and the countries dollar was almost worthless.

Years later, there has still been no recovery for the average worker. The bailout for the fallout went to the country’s wealthiest people, while the regular working class—thousands of citizens—were left jobless and hungry in the Dominican Republic. The country has failed to uplift fleeting growth sectors like mining, agriculture and education, which brings income to Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian immigrants.

To make matters worse, in 2013 the highest court in the Dominican Republic ruled to exclude citizenship to children of migrant Haitians who were born after 1929. This ruling forced thousands, including children, from the country and left others trapped in poverty in the Dominican Republic while they hope to one day become documented citizens again. Since that ruling, almost 300,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent have applied for citizenship. Few have become citizens.

According to a 2017 economic report on the Dominican Republic, the economy is rising and job sectors are slowing increasing because of tourism. But it still does not address a resolution to solving severe hunger in the country.

The biggest hurdle to helping the hungry in the Dominican Republic is overcoming the inequality of wealth distribution. The World Food Programme reported that while the Dominican Republic (DR) is one of the highest ranked upper-middle-income countries in the world, 40 percent of its people still live in poverty. By fairly distributing wealth to the urban areas of the DR, areas occupied by Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants, the country could see a return from poverty.

The DR’s failing education system is another cause of poverty in the country. The country’s educations system does not rank well among those in other countries, mainly due to the absence of financial investment in its schools. Poverty affects the ability to learn. Adding a failing education system sets an additional snare, making it twice as difficult for poor people to escape poverty. Urban areas, in particular, have to endure substandard education.

All of this can change for the Dominican Republic. If the government continues to press for the quashing of economic inequality in the country and makes continual efforts to invest in education, this beautiful country can become more than just a tourist site.

– Naomi C. Kellogg

Photo: Flickr