Three years on from the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti is facing another crisis – catastrophic food shortages caused by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.
The October storm decimated Haiti’s agriculture, which accounts for over a quarter of the country’s GDP. The government said 70 per cent of crops in the south of the country were wiped out, while farmers that ActionAid work with have reported crop losses of up to 90 per cent in their fields.
With seeds and tools also destroyed, many farmers were unable to take advantage of the last planting season in December and are facing having no crops at all to harvest in February.
Jean-Claude O Fignolé, ActionAid Haiti's country director said:
“Over two million people are already suffering from malnutrition, but what we are facing now is mass hunger if safety nets such as cash or food transfers are not put in place to protect people.”
According to the UN five million people — half of the population – could suffer food shortages.
Dalinstry Pieere, a farmer from the Grand-Anse region which was badly hit by the hurricane, said:
“Farmers in Grand-Anse don’t have any crops to sell and don’t have the money to buy imported products. Local foods like cassava, sweet potatoes and plantains are not available in the markets due to the massive loss of harvest after Sandy. People are having to buy imported rice and corn meal, but the prices keep going up.”
On top of Hurricane Sandy, Haiti is still struggling to cope with a cholera epidemic that has killed 8,000 people. There are fears that the food crisis will hamper efforts to combat cholera, as hunger weakens people making them more vulnerable to the disease.
ActionAid provided immediate support to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, with emergency shelter, sanitation kits and hygiene awareness to prevent cholera, but had to scale down its efforts as funding ran out.
Fignolé, said: “Food crisis and cholera spell grim prospects for the new year. The Haitian government is importing hundreds of tonnes of food, mostly rice, from Asian countries as a short term strategy to reduce prices. But unless local rice farmers are also given the help they need to boost Haiti’s agriculture on the ground, this could weaken the countries’ longer term capacity to feed itself.
“A concerted international effort is needed not only to save lives in the short term but to help Haiti avoid similar catastrophes in future.”
In the past three years following the earthquake ActionAid has helped 200,000 people with emergency shelter, food and water, cash for work programmes and disaster risk reduction, which saved countless lives during Hurricane Sandy. The agency has also build semi-permanent homes, built four schools and helped children get back into school with books and uniforms.
Gullies and channels constructed in Petion-Ville in the capital Port-au-Prince as part of a cash for work programme in the aftermath of the earthquake helped divert rainwater away from homes that would otherwise have flooded during Hurricane Sandy, highlighting the importance of preparing for disasters.