Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, with half of the population earning less than $1 a day. Many people don’t have ready access to electricity, water, sanitation or healthcare. Its economy has been repeatedly affected by political crises and a series of devastating natural disasters over the last two decades. Haiti’s total population is 10.7 million, 50 percent of which is undernourished.
Agriculture provides 50 percent of jobs in the country and accounts for 25 percent of the GDP, but Haiti fails to produce enough food to feed its population. Imports make up more than 80 percent of people’s main staple: rice. This makes Haiti incredibly sensitive to any price hikes in international markets or interruption in government fuel subsidies. Even a minor rise in price would increase the cost of living and push more Haitians further into poverty.
Haiti is the country that is third most-affected by extreme weather events, according to the Climate Risk Index. Severe storms, flooding, landslides, drought and earthquakes make economic growth exceedingly difficult:
- In 2010, a devastating, magnitude 7 earthquake upended Haitians’ lives, killing between 46,000 and 316,000 people
- In 2015, Haiti endured its third year of drought, exacerbated by El Niño
- In 2016, Hurricane Mathew flooded the country , leaving 806,000 people in need of urgent food assistance
An Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) released in February 2016, found that 3.6 million Haitians were facing food insecurity, and among them more than 1.5 million were severely food-insecure.
WFP has been present in Haiti since 1969. The UN agency focuses on five key areas of assistance:
School meals – WFP delivers daily hot meals to 400,000 schoolchildren in 1,400 schools. WFP’s school meals program represents the country’s largest food safety net and supports the Government’s efforts to establish a Haitian-owned program by 2030. One of WFP’s priorities is to increase the quantity of food purchased locally and used in the school meals program. WFP is also piloting a “homegrown” school meals program, which sources food from local small-scale farmers. This improves children’s dietary diversity and stimulates local markets.
Food for Assets program – Food for Assets and Cash for Assets programs target 225,000 people to reinforce their resilience and reduce community vulnerability to future climate shocks while meeting immediate food needs. Under these activities, participants are provided with cash, food vouchers or e-cards for their participation in asset creation activities which rehabilitate productive infrastructure, protect watersheds, build rural farmers’ skills and improve their families’ food security. In 2015, more than 247 acres of forest were turned into farmland with Cash for Assets programs.
Nutrition interventions – WFP delivers supplementary food rations to prevent increases in acute malnutrition rates. More than 45,000 children under the age of five and 31,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers receive complementary feeding to prevent stunting and micronutrient deficiencies.
Disaster preparedness – WFP is working closely with the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection to set up emergency radio communication centers that can be used during a future climate shock. And, every year, WFP pre-positions food before hurricane season, from June through November. This stock covers the potential needs of up to 300,000 people for a month in the event of an emergency. With these food stocks already in place, WFP is able to reach people quickly if needed.
Emergency response – WFP’s emergency response follows the two-phased approach proposed by the Government: an emergency and a recovery plan. During the first phase, WFP aims to assist 1 million people with unconditional cash, food vouchers or e-cards. During the second phase, 200,000 people will receive cash, food vouchers or e-cards in exchange for their participation in asset creation activities.