WFP warns of unprecedented levels of hunger and food insecurity in Haiti

According to the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians will be facing severe hunger

March 29, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that nearly half of Haiti’s population is at the risk of hunger and needs immediate food assistance. Photo: Georges Harry Rouzier/UNICEF

In a country with one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world, data indicates that the situation in Haiti will only worsen. The World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations has warned that nearly half of the country’s population is at risk of hunger and in need of immediate food assistance.

The WFP, citing the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, the global standard for measuring food insecurity, reported that between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians (45% of the population) would be suffering from severe hunger. The WFP further reported that of this number, 3.18 million Haitians (32% of the population) would be in a situation classified as in the crisis phase, and 1.32 million Haitians (13%) would be in the emergency phase.

The WFP representative in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, stated that the current situation is “the worst registered since 2018.” In 2018, half of Haiti’s population was undernourished and the country’s Global Hunger Index score rose to 35 from 28 in 2009, reaching the “alarming” threshold.

Honnorat also highlighted that the Caribbean country’s dependence on food imports places Haitians in an unfavorable position, due to the devaluation of Haitian currency against the US dollar. As Honnorat described, “70% of the goods in Haiti’s stores are imported, including basic products such as rice, 80% of which is imported.”

The WFP’s report also detailed how “one of the key drivers of food insecurity in Haiti is the poor performance of the agriculture sector and the country’s dependence on food imports, which makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets.” The WFP expressed concern about the effect of the Russia–Ukraine crisis on food security, which continues to negatively impact the purchasing power in highly import-dependent countries like Haiti.

Honnorat also said that the WFP fears the war in Ukraine would raise the price of food and therefore increase hunger in Haiti. He described how Haiti primarily imports wheat from Russia and Canada, adding how wheat flour is used to bake the bread which consumed by Haitians every day. “If the wheat flour [price] is going up, you will see a problem. And as I said, the price has already multiplied by five in two years. So, we can only expect that it will multiply again.”

Honnorat added that the situation of hunger would push people to resort to extreme measures, “fueling insecurity, migration and sexual exploitation.”

The WFP’s report added that persistent political instability, deepening economic crisis, soaring inflation, and recurrent natural disasters also limit access to affordable food for vulnerable populations. Over the past two decades, Haiti has been rocked by severe storms, floods, landslides, droughts, including the devastating earthquake in 2010 and the category 4 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. On the 2021 Climate Risk Index list, Haiti is on number three among the countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019.

Last August’s earthquake caused massive economic, human and infrastructural losses in southwestern Haiti, affecting nearly 1 million people. Northern Haiti is also reeling from the aftermath of heavy flooding in late January, which resulted in the displacement of nearly 2,500 families, forcing them to seek refuge in temporary shelters.