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Chaos across Haiti amid high risk of famine

The lack of goods and resources is worsening an already precarious economic situation, with water and basic services being “stretched to the limit”, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said.

The UN Secretary-General called on all Haitian stakeholders to act responsibly and expressed appreciation to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and partners’ for facilitating a way forward to resolve Haiti’s political crisis through a just-signed agreement to, among other things, appoint an interim prime minister, Mr. Dujarric said.

Thousands displaced

In Haiti, armed groups have taken control of many of the main roads, flights to Port-au-Prince have been grounded and incomes are plummeting amid a sharp rise in displacement, according to UN agencies.

Gang violence has displaced more than 362,000 Haitians, over half of them children.

At least 35,000 have fled from their homes since the beginning of 2024, trying to escape the escalating crisis.

‘Haiti needs more than just boots on the ground’

Media reports on Monday said Kenya is now pausing its plans for the support force following the resignation of Mr. Henry, who had in October asked the Security Council to deploy a mission to restore calm amid the growing chaos wreaked by armed gangs.

WFP said that while recent agreements between Haiti and Kenya enabling the deployment of the support mission are promising, failing to address the country’s hunger crisis could itself jeopardise efforts to restore stability.

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Cindy McCain, WFP’s Executive Director, said the spreading violence is keeping aid workers from reaching communities in need at a time when donor funds are drying up.

“Haiti needs more than just boots on the ground,” she said. “Efforts to restore law and order must be matched by an equally effective humanitarian response to meet soaring needs.”

Aid effort ‘running on fumes’

Right now, the $674 million humanitarian response plan for Haiti is just two per cent funded, she said.

“Our humanitarian operation in Haiti is running on fumes, with funding for hot meals about to run out in two weeks,” Ms. McCain said. “We need donors to step up today so we can tackle the rising tide of hunger and halt the slide into chaos.”

The security and political crises are unfolding alongside a largely unaddressed food crisis.

Risk of famine

In Haiti, Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP country director, warned of an impending famine, stressing that there are levels of hunger in Port-au-Prince that are typically seen in war zones.

“Haiti is one of the world’s most severe food crises,” said Mr. Bauer, briefing reporters at UN Headquarters via videolink from a WFP warehouse in Cap Haitien.

Food security has been fragile in Haiti since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, but today, 1.4 million people are “a step away from famine”, he said.

Port-au-Prince besieged

Describing desperate coping strategies to get enough to eat, he said people are cutting down on meals and eating lower quality foods, leading to high malnutrition rates. People are also selling goods, from personal items to land, just to be able to survive, he added.

Haiti depends on food imports for 50 per cent of its needs, he explained. While WFP has prepositioned stocks in Port-au-Prince, the city remains besieged, and “no one can go in and out”.

Right now, there are more than 200,000 children vulnerable to acute malnutrition, he said, noting that an integrated security phase classification (IPC) report tracking food insecurity will be published in the coming weeks.

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‘We need to do more’

WFP has assisted more than 280,000 people since 1 March. About 300 WFP employees are striving to reach the most vulnerable, including serving 14,000 meals to people recently displaced in the capital, Mr. Bauer said.

It’s a constant struggle,” he said, citing of such efforts as providing mobile credit for those in need and close coordinating with local authorities, which enabled serving meals to 160,000 school children outside the capital.

“But, we know we need to do more,” he said. “We need to ensure security comes back to the country. We need the port to reopen and stocks to be replenished.”

‘Recipe for a food crisis’

If the situation in the capital continues, food prices will sharply increase over already inflated prices that saw costs jump by 25 per cent in southern Haiti in January. Over the past few days, prices have risen by at least 10 per cent, Mr. Bauer warned.

“That’s a recipe for a food crisis,” he said.

Mass hunger is related to unrest, strife and mass migration and without a strong food support for the population, the forthcoming multilateral support mission will not be able achieve its objectives alone, he explained.

While security is needed, a robust humanitarian response plan is imperative, he said.

Security permitting, WFP aims to reach 2.4 million people in 2024 through emergency assistance in cash and in-kind food rations and is working with the government to provide school meals and to implement longer-term programmes to help Haitian produce their own food, the agency said.

Find out how WFP is helping Haiti here.

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