Image depicting Hunger Crisis in Haiti
Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Hunger Crisis in Haiti

Four million Haitians need urgent food assistance. Now they worry they won't survive COVID-19.

Soaring Prices & Social Unrest Are Pushing Haiti to the Brink

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Americas and one of the most food-insecure places in the world. On a good day, electricity, running water and health care are scarce. Frequent natural disasters make it nearly impossible for families to grow enough food to feed themselves.

In the midst of ruinous economic and political upheaval, the coronavirus pandemic and a severe hurricane season have arrived, threatening the 900,000 people already suffering from severe levels of hunger.


Two thirds of the population lacks access to adequate sanitation


Out of 10.7 million people, half are undernourished


Out of 188 countries, Haiti ranks 168 in human development

The Makings of a Catastrophe


Coronavirus cases spiked dramatically in Haiti from May into June, 2020. The pandemic worsens a regional situation where economic shocks, erratic climate, displacement and insecurity have already taken a heavy toll. COVID-19 pushed even more people across the country into poverty and hunger. We're distributing cash and food every week - including take-home rations for out-of-school kids: a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

Political Upheaval

Haiti’s ongoing political turmoil erupted in September 2019 as tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. The protests quickly turned violent and have continued. The precarious security situation combined with road blocks and political gridlock have led to a spike in hunger and made it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. The price of staple foods has increased by more than 22 percent in the last year while agricultural production has dropped by about 12 percent.

Photo: WFP/Frantz Jean


Nearly 60 percent of Haitians live in poverty. Of those, nearly 25 percent live in extreme poverty. Half of the population earns less than $1 per day, making it enormously difficult for families to afford food and other necessities, like housing and health care. Education is often the first expense to be cut, so children are taken out of school, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hunger.

Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Agricultural Challenges

Half of all jobs in Haiti are in agriculture and it accounts for 25 percent of the GDP. Most farms are small – averaging less than 2.5 acres – and low-quality land makes farming less-productive. Spotty land ownership and leasing regulations present significant problems to small-scale farmers, putting them at increased risk of food shortages.

Photo: WFP/Thomas Freteur

Reliance on Imports

Despite its large agricultural sector, Haiti currently does not produce enough food to feed its population. More than 50 percent of the country's overall food needs, and close to 80 percent of its main staple, rice, are imported. This makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets.

Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Extreme Weather

These issues are exacerbated by the fact that Haiti is especially prone to natural disasters. It is the fourth most weather-affected country in the world, according to the Climate Risk Index. Over the past two decades, severe storms, flooding, landslides, drought and earthquakes have overturned lives again and again. For people who are barely getting by, one strong storm can destroy everything.

Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

A magnitude 7 earthquake killed between 46,000 and 316,000 people


Hurricane Mathew left 806,000 people in need of urgent food assistance


Political unrest pushes 1M people into emergency levels of hunger

When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti’s southern coast on October 4th, 2016, it claimed the lives of more than 800 people, left extensive flooding and mudslides, damaged roads and buildings, and caused widespread electricity and water shortages. In this episode of Hacking Hunger, we hear about the storm from two different perspectives: Laura Cantave, a former WFP USA employee who was born in Haiti, and Alexis Masciarelli, a WFP Communications Officer who arrived in Haiti four days after the hurricane hit.


Helping Haitians Build Resilience

The United Nations World Food Programme has been present in Haiti for more than 50 years, focusing on four key areas of assistance: school meals, building resilience, nutrition interventions and disaster preparedness.

School Meals

WFP feeds 365,000 children in 1,400 schools. It’s the country’s largest food safety net, and the Government is on track to take over the program by 2030. WFP sources as much food as it can from local farmers. We’re distributing rations to families to replace school meals during COVID-19.

Food for Assets

With this program, participants are given food in exchange for their work on community projects such as roads, dams and irrigation networks. These projects help build communities’ resilience and reduce their vulnerability to extreme weather while meeting immediate food needs.

Early Nutrition

Around the world, 45 percent of deaths among children under age 5 are caused by malnutrition. To prevent an increase in acute malnutrition in Haiti, WFP is providing supplementary food assistance to 41,000 children under 5, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Disaster Prep

WFP works with the Haitian government to set up emergency radio communication centers for emergencies. We pre-position food before hurricane season, covering the needs of up to 300,000 people for a month. A WFP helicopter makes daily deliveries – sometimes up to 12MT per month.

But there is so much more to be done. As of today:
4.1 million Haitians face some form of food insecurity
among them, 1.6 million are severely food-insecure
WFP needs $110M to continue its lifesaving operations in Haiti for the next year
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