PORT-AU-PRINCE - Violence caused by armed groups, economic slowdown and climate-related effects continue to drive high levels of hunger in Haiti, according to a new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report issued last week. Despite a reduction in the number of people facing acute food insecurity across the country, 44 percent of Haitians continue to find themselves in either Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of hunger.
The latest IPC report, which is produced by the Government of Haiti in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners, states that 4.35 million Haitians are facing acute food insecurity between August 2023 to February 2024, compared to 4.9 million in the previous period of analysis (March to June 2023).
"While we always welcome even a modest reduction in the number of people facing acute hunger, we are extremely concerned about the high levels of hunger that continue to haunt Haitians. As I travelled across the country in reach months, I've seen how food aid is one of the key factors preventing Haitians from sliding into famine. However, emergency levels of food insecurity persist in several regions, while funding is at a critically low level," said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP Country Director in Haiti. "Without an immediate injection of funds, we risk seeing an even greater number of people going hungry, eroding hard-won progress."
Despite slight improvement, progress remains fragile due to funding shortfalls and a recent surge in violence-related population displacements. Incursions by armed groups into several residential areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as the expansion of criminal activity in rural areas such as the department of Artibonite, Haiti's breadbasket, could result in widespread disruption to local food markets and lead the country to disastrous levels of hunger.
"Emergency agricultural interventions, especially when combined with cash and food assistance, can have enormous impacts on food availability and access. It is essential that we provide smallholder farmers with livelihoods support to feed their families and the wider community, quickly contributing to improved food security and nutrition. Agricultural aid is humanitarian aid and can't be an afterthought. Yet, as of today, only 12 percent of targeted people benefited from emergency agricultural assistance," said Patrick David, FAO officer in charge in Haiti.
The slight improvement in food security is attributed in part to increased availability of fuel, whereas at the time of the last analysis the country was facing strong economic contraction with a limited supply and high price for fuel, thereby increasing transportation costs. The report notes that improved movement around the country and use of alternate transportation routes has facilitated circulation of goods. Significant levels of food assistance, in the form of both rations and cash transfers, have also contributed to improved food security in some areas.
In addition, in a country heavily dependent on food imports, the depreciation of the Haitian gourde against the US dollar has stabilized, or even reversed since May 2023. After peaking at 155 HTG/USD in April 2023, the exchange rate has remained stable around 135-140 HTG/USD since May 2023. This had an immediate positive impact on the purchasing power of the poorest households, contributing to a slight reduction in the number of people in IPC Phases 3 and 4.
According to the WFP and FAO latest Hunger Hotspots analysis, Haiti is one of 9 countries facing starvation risks, and is amongst 5 countries with more than 10 percent of the population in IPC 4 (Emergency), according to the 2023 Global Report on Food Crises.
So far this year, WFP has supported 1.5 million people in Haiti, providing over US$40 million in cash-based transfers, providing more than 6,500 MT of dry food rations and serving school meals to more than 450,000 students across the country. Each month, WFP purchases over a million dollars' worth of local produce, empowering farmers and supporting local markets.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It aims at transforming agrifood systems, making them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no-one behind. FAO's goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
Follow us on Twitter: @FAO, @FAOHaiti
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media, @wfp_Haiti