Almost half of Haiti’s children face acute hunger as economic and security crisis worsens post-earthquake
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 11 April 2023 – Almost half of Haiti’s children are facing acute hunger with violence, climate stresses and soaring inflation all contributing to the situation worsening since the Caribbean island nation was struck by a devastating earthquake 18 months ago, Save the Children saidi.
Gang violence, a political standstill and insecurity have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, climate stresses have ground down agricultural production , and soaring inflation has reduced overseas imports putting food out of reach for children and families. The UN says that 5.2 million people – nearly half the entire population – are in desperate need of humanitarian aidii.
Without urgent action to end the violence and ramp up international assistance, famine-like conditions could become the reality for children and families across the country, which is fast becoming home to one of the worst hunger crises in the Americas and a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian emergency.
Alisha, 21 months old, arrived underweight to a nutrition corner run by Save the Children when she was 17 months old. She was screened and provided with therapeutic food (peanut butter) to prevent malnutrition. Jinette, her mother, also participated in sessions of how to feed and take care or the baby.
Jinette said: “The baby used to be underweight and didn't want to eat and drink. I began to feed her with peanut butter, and she started to get better. I noticed she gained weight. She did not use to play, but now she's playing and running everywhere. I would like my baby to grow, so that she can go to school and become something in society in the future”.
Latest IPC figures that measure the severity and magnitude of food insecurity show that 5 million people – nearly half the population including 1.9 million children – are classified as acutely food insecure. Of those, almost 2 million are facing an emergency situationiii.
In food crises, children are always the most vulnerable and can face malnutrition without enough to eat and the right nutritional balance, Save the Children said. Malnutrition can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase the risk of contracting deadly diseases, and ultimately cause death. Latest World Food Programme figuresiv show 22% of children in Haiti are chronically malnourished, the result of prolonged episodes of inadequate nutrition.
As well as food shortages, communities are struggling to access basic services such as water, healthcare, education, fuel, telecommunications, and electricity. Six months ago, a cholera epidemic was declared in nine of the 10 departments in Haiti after three years without any recorded cases in the country, according to the UNv.
Reconstruction efforts after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck 18 months ago – just as violence began to ramp up across Haiti – have been slow, both caused by and at the same time worsening the deadly cycle of the humanitarian crisis. In the south of the country, some 2,500 people are still displaced as a result of the earthquake, and efforts to rebuild the 1,250 schools destroyed have been hampered by logistical difficulties as a result of the spiralling insecurityvi.
Humanitarian actors estimate the country needs US$ 715 million in humanitarian funding, according to the UNvii.
Chantal Sylvie Imbeault, Country Director of Save the Children in Haiti, said:
“Children in Haiti are trapped in a deadly cycle of violence, poverty and hunger, in which each problem intersects with the others to create a polycrisis like no other. Half the population is fighting for survival, with parents waking up unsure if and how they will feed their children. Violence is terrorising families and preventing them from accessing what little basic services remain.
“The resilience of Haitian people in the face of this humanitarian emergency is incredibly humbling, but it is unconscionable that they are having to go through this. We are doing what we can to respond but urgently need the international community to turn its attention to Haiti with an immediate injection of lifesaving funding. We also need an immediate end to the violence that is killing innocent people and deepening the vulnerability of children, adolescents, and their families.”
Save the Children has been working in Haiti since 1978 focusing on child protection, education, health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, food security and livelihoods, humanitarian aid, disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness for children and their families.
Save the Children operates in both urban and rural communities in the Artibonite, South, Grand'Anse and West departments, including the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and is starting to expand into the Great North. Current humanitarian programming focuses on recovery from the 2021 earthquake and response to the hunger crisis, recent cholera outbreak and violence in Port-au-Prince.
NOTES TO EDITOR
i Latest IPC figures show almost 5 million people in Haiti are in IPC Phase 3+. According to UN data, 38% of Haiti’s population are children. 38% of 5 million is 1.9 million. Malnourishment figures come from WFP February 2023 country brief WFP Haiti Country Brief, February 2023.pdf
ii UN OCHA Haiti Humanitarian Needs Overview, March 2023
iii In IPC Phase 4
v UN OCHA Haiti Humanitarian Needs Overview, March 2023
vi UN OCHA Haiti Humanitarian Needs Overview, March 2023
vii UN OCHA Haiti Humanitarian Needs Overview, March 2023
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