Keep Global Spotlight On Haiti As Millions Go Hungry, WFP Official Says

Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024 09:55 AM
The number of people going hungry in Haiti has reached record levels amid ongoing gang violence, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) there said on Wednesday in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“We now have five million people in Haiti that are acutely food insecure, of which 1.6 million are classified as facing emergency food insecurity conditions,” said WFP Country Director Jean-Martin Bauer, speaking via videolink to journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.
“These are the highest numbers on record. These are the highest numbers we've had since the 2010 earthquake,” he added.
Feeding displaced people
Mr. Bauer’s briefing took place just hours after WFP and sister UN agency the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published their latest hunger hotspots report, calling for action to save lives and prevent starvation in 18 places such as Gaza, Sudan and Haiti.
He spoke from a community kitchen in Port-au-Prince, managed by WFP and a local partner, that prepares thousands of hot meals for people displaced by the rampant gang violence, and ensuing insecurity and human rights violations, that have rocked the city in recent years.
The UN Security Council has authorized the deployment of a Multinational Security Support Mission to assist the Haitian National Police, which is still in the planning stages.
Airport shuttered
The situation in the Caribbean country worsened in early March after gangs tightened their grip on the capital, carrying out coordinated attacks against police stations and other key State institutions, and releasing thousands of prisoners in jail breaks. Flights were grounded and the Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, resigned.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Mr. Bauer said that security is the “number one priority” in the face of violence that makes it dangerous for people, including his staff, to even take their children to school, shop for groceries or go to church.
The violence has forced over 360,000 Haitians to flee their homes. More than 100,000 left Port-au-Prince in March alone, he said, citing data from UN migration agency IOM.
Mr. Bauer said this “exodus” from the capital is especially affecting the south of the country, where infrastructure is limited, thus compounding the food crisis.
Although a new Prime Minister has been nominated, the period since then “has been quite violent, quite unsettled”, he added.
“The country has been blocked. The main ports for containers, the airport, were not functional for months. They've slowly resumed functioning,” he said.
A million meals
Humanitarians have been doing their best to respond to the crisis, and the hot meals programme is just one example of their efforts, he said. In total, WFP and partners have assisted more than 100,000 people since the start of the year, providing over a million hot meals.
“Right now, we've been able to use the stocks that we placed in position in Port-au-Prince ahead of the crisis, but those have been running low,” he said.
With the recent re-opening of the port, he expressed optimism that more commodities will flow into the country to sustain humanitarian activities.
Aid flown in
He also pointed to good news. Last week, a WFP cargo flight transported 15 tonnes of vital medical supplies to the Port-au-Prince airport, marking the first time in months.
The items were for partners such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) who delivered them to local hospitals and clinics. More flights will soon take to the skies.
Other “breakthroughs” saw WFP reaching the Cité-Soleil neighbourhood, providing rations to some 93,000 people in May. WFP has also maintained a ferry service linking Port-au-Prince to the north and south of Haiti, bringing food and medical supplies to areas that have been isolated from humanitarian supply chains.
Pay attention to Haiti
“But there's a sense of crisis still,” Mr. Bauer said.
This month marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season which is on track to be “very active” this year. Food prices in the capital have also increased by nearly 30 per cent since January, representing another blow to the population.
He urged the international community to step up and support Haiti, as a $674 million humanitarian response plan, launched in February, is only around 22 per cent funded. WFP also needs $76 million to continue its lifesaving work in the country.
“We need to continue having Haiti in the spotlight,” he said. “We know that in some parts of the world there just hasn't been enough attention on Haiti because we're looking at other crises, we're looking elsewhere, but the crisis in Haiti is here, it's now and it deserves a response.”

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