Photo: WFP/Theresa Piorr/2022/Haiti

Increased Violence in the Capital Drives Tens of Thousands of Haitians From Their Homes, Leaving Them Reliant on Food Aid

Published October 30, 2023

PORT-AU-PRINCE – An uptick in violence in Port-au-Prince since mid-August has driven approximately 40,000 people from their homes in several neighborhoods of the capital, exacerbating an already complex humanitarian crisis, where almost half of the country faces acute levels of hunger.

Women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups are bearing the brunt of a brutal conflict in which dozens of armed groups battle over territory. In the last 2.5 months alone, hundreds of civilians have been killed in the crossfire, and tens of thousands of have been chased from their homes in the neighborhoods of Carrefour-Feuilles, Savane Pistache, Mirebalais, Saut d’Eau and Tabarre, often fleeing with just the clothes they are wearing.

These recent movements bring the total number of displaced people across the country to over 200,000. Many of the affected people report their homes have been burned and businesses destroyed, leaving them with few possessions and no source of income.

Displaced people have taken shelter in over 90 different locations around Port-au-Prince, including schools, churches and abandoned buildings. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have supported the government in distributing 550,000 hot meals to the latest victims of the crisis in Haiti since mid-August, but funding cuts mean the U.N. World Food Programme has been unable to deliver continuous assistance to all those in need, often only providing one meal a day instead of the usual two meals.

“Even before this most recent wave of displacement, Haiti was already in the midst of its worst humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake. Economic woes and climate-related stressors are important factors, but the main driver of hunger in Haiti is violence and insecurity. At this moment of almost unprecedented need, funding has just not kept apace, and we urgently need $136 million to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Haitians over the next six months,” said U.N. World Food Programme Country Director in Haiti Jean-Martin Bauer.

In the face of the crisis, the U.N. World Food Programme set up three central kitchens in Port-au-Prince, where each day as many as 22,000 meals are prepared and then transported to various sites where displaced people are staying. Central kitchens use existing U.N. World Food Programme stocks of dry rations including rice and dried beans, in combination with fresh vegetables and meat or fish.

The U.N. World Food Programme is in the process of shifting from serving hot meals to providing cash assistance to displaced people. This allows families to choose which foods are best suited to their individual needs, while also boosting the local economy.

The effect of displacement is also being felt in towns and cities around the country, where schools report an increase in enrollment due to families fleeing the capital for relative safety in rural areas. Recently-displaced children who attend schools which are already part of the U.N. World Food Programme ’s country-wide school meals program are also able to benefit from this support. The program provides daily hot meals for 460,000 students across Haiti.

The latest IPC food security analysis indicates that 4.35 million Haitians face acute hunger from August 2023 to February 2024. This accounts for 44% of the total population.

So far this year, the U.N. World Food Programme has assisted nearly 1.7 million people in Haiti with over $47 million in cash-based transfers and 7,500 MT of dry food rations essential to meeting their basic food needs. In addition to emergency response, the U.N. World Food Programme also works to address the root causes of hunger through several channels including by establishing a social safety net in collaboration with the government, assisting communities in building or rehabilitating infrastructure such as water management and irrigation systems, and helping Haitians to mitigate climate-related challenges through anticipatory actions. Each month, the U.N. World Food Programme purchases over 1 million dollars’ worth of local produce, empowering farmers and supporting local markets.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s leading 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.

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