Rising Hunger In Central America And Haiti As El Niño Follows Prolonged Drought

Published April 7, 2016

GUATEMALA CITY – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) committed today to both assisting 1.6 million people hit by droughts exacerbated by El Niño in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti and building resilience against future climatic shocks.

Speaking at the end of visits to El Salvador and Guatemala to see the compounded impact of El Niño, one of the strongest in the last half century, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said WFP planned to scale up to help the most vulnerable in the four countries through August.

“At the same time, working closely with governments, we are placing resilience at the heart of our longer response. We must work to ensure vulnerable people are not repeatedly pushed deeper into hunger and can build longer-lasting assets that will survive potential disasters,” Cousin said in Guatemala.

“Overall WFP is committed to helping people build a world with Zero Hunger,” she added. “A key to this global goal being achieved in Central America and elsewhere is that communities are able to better adapt, ensuring they are more prepared for climatic shocks and can recover faster.”

People hit by drought benefit from programmes which deliver cash, cash-based vouchers and mobile transfers in El Salvador and Guatemala to obtain food, including more diversified and fresh produce, while simultaneously building local economies. In addition, WFP and its partners provide nutrition training as well as support for reforestation, irrigation and community gardens.

The Executive Director visited communities in the drought-prone Dry Corridor where she talked with local people about how to overcome the impact of the extended dry period.

Next week, Cousin visits Haiti to meet vulnerable communities also struggling with the impact of El Niño.

According to assessments by WFP and governments, more than 2 million people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are food insecure. Most are subsistence farmers who harvest once a year and live in the Dry Corridor. At governments’ request, WFP provided food assistance in 2014 and 2015 to more than 1.2 million people in the three countries.

WFP is concerned that from March to April, small farmers in Central America may have to drain their cash and food reserves to obtain seeds and other inputs for the first crop cycle of 2016.

Meanwhile, 3.6 million people in Haiti are food insecure after three years of severe drought. WFP initially responded with food distributions for a two-month period to 120,000 people. It now plans to launch an emergency operation to assist 1 million people, primarily by cash transfers. More nutrition interventions are planned to prevent a rise in acute malnutrition.

WFP needs US$100 million to assist 1.6 million victims of drought through August in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti.

For photos, please contact WFP’s Head of the Photography Unit, Rein Skullerud: 


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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

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For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Alejandro Lopez-Chicheri, WFP Latin America and the Caribbean, Mob. +507 6671 5355

Frances Kennedy, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 65133725, Mob. +39 346 7600806

Gerald Bourke, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob.  +1-646 525 9982

Steve Taravella, WFP/Washington DC, Tel. +1 202 653 1149, Mob. +1 202 770 5993