Haiti facing ‘silent’ food crisis with nearly half population hungry – UN agency

Women selling vegetables in Haiti

31 July 2003 – A “silent” food crisis is looming in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with over 3.8 million people – nearly half its total – suffering from hunger, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned today.

“Haitians somehow manage to survive from day-to-day, leaving many observers questioning whether there is really a humanitarian emergency,” Anne M. Bauer, Director of the FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division, said. “The indicators, however, show that there is a crisis, albeit a ‘silent’ one, and one that risks becoming deeper.”

Living conditions of the poor have deteriorated markedly, FAO said in a news release. The majority of the hungry live in rural areas. Increased social and political tensions have contributed to a vicious cycle of marginalization and increased vulnerability, eroding social, economic, infrastructural and environmental assets.

Out of a labour force of 4.1 million only 110,000 are employed in the formal sector, of whom 35,000 are civil servants. Over 1.2 million children are affected or infected by HIV/AIDS or other diseases. Around 23 per cent of the children under five are suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Agriculture, the main source of income, has been damaged by drought in the northwest over the last four years and by floods in the northeast over the last season, FAO added. National food production is still decreasing due to insufficient investment, infrastructure and access to agricultural inputs.

Poor living conditions are exacerbated by inadequate or non-existent water and sanitation services.

In April the UN and its various agencies launched an $84 million appeal to address the emergency needs of the most vulnerable in Haiti over the next 18 months.

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