Food Crisis Hits Haiti Weeks After Hurricane


Three weeks after Hurricane Matthew roared through Haiti, leaving hundreds dead and homes destroyed, a dire food crisis provides another layer of problems for the country.

A week after the Category 4 storm hit, an emergency survey was conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) in conjunction with the Haitian Government and the National Coordination for Food Security (CNSA), concluding that an estimated 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance, 800,000 of which are “in a dire situation,” according to the report.

“There has been a massive loss of crops in some areas of Grand Anse [in Haiti’s southern peninsula] up to a 100 percent loss, just everything is gone,” Alexis Masciarelli, a World Food Program worker in the country told ABC News. “What’s striking is that all the food trees are gone, a vast majority of them. The coconuts, the bananas, the mangoes.”

According to Mercy Corps, 80 percent of crops that feed 20,000 families were destroyed, along with much of their tools, livestock, and possessions.

Along Haiti’s southern coast, fishing has been suspended as flooding washed away nets, trap, boats, and engines. As a result, families lose a vital income to purchase food.

“Local products on the markets will soon be depleted and we need more funding in order to continue food distributions to help 800,000 people in need of food aid which is more than urgent,” Miguel Barreto, WFP’s Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean, said.

Coupled with the wipeout of crops is a loss of approximately 50 percent of livestock across various areas in Haiti.

“We’re very worried about the country’s future in terms of food security,” Hervil Cherubin, country director in Haiti for Heifer International, a nonprofit that works with more than 6,500 farming families in the south, said. “Most of the crops are gone. Many of the farm fields are like landfills. They’re full of trash, seawater, gravel and other debris.”

While food has been distributed to affected areas since Matthew, according to Masciarelli, it does meet the country’s current need. “So far we have managed to distribute food assistance to 200,000 people,” he told ABC News.

The food program faces other difficulties in delivering food to those in need as there have been attack on conveys along with heavy rains leading to floods.

Masciarelli affirms that while the attacks on convey have been rare, during his visit to Haiti, the apparent desperation is paramount.

“You could just see people eating whatever they find on the ground,” he said.

With the traditional planting season in November approaching, the humanitarian community in Haiti is hoping to receive emergency funds of $56 million to meet the needs of those affected over the next three months.

“The winter season crop is fast approaching. Agricultural producers have lost everything. If we don’t act now to provide them with seed, fertilizer and other materials they need, they will not be able to plant and will be faced with persisting food insecurity,” Nathanaël Hishamunda, FAO’s Representative in Haiti, said.

Image: Clony Toussaint stands in the doorway of his home, damaged by Hurricane Matthew, in Port-a-Piment, a district of Les Cayes, Haiti. AP / Dieu Nalio Chery