Millions of people in Haiti could face a catastrophic food crisis unless international donors act urgently to help farmers whose crops were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, ActionAid warned today.
Farmers that ActionAid work with are reporting crop losses of between 70% and 90% in their areas and need immediate help to clear fields. They also require seeds and tools if they are to take advantage of the current planting season.
“The international community must pay attention to the early warning signs,” said Bijay Kumar, ActionAid's Head of Emergencies. “We have seen what happens when we do not act early enough – the food crisis in the Horn of Africa in 2011 could have been averted if we had responded before it reached crisis point. We must not make the same mistake again in Haiti.”
The Haitian government has said that 70 per cent of crops in the south of the country were destroyed when the storm hit the Caribbean nation on 24 October. According to the UN five million people — 50% of the population – could suffer food shortages and up to two million people are thought to be at risk of malnutrition.
Nessilo Dorestant, 49, a farmer from the Roseaux in the south west of the country, said: “We have lost everything. If I do not find seeds and seedlings now, I will have to prepare them myself from remaining devastated crops. But it will take a year for them to be ready and more than six months after to harvest. There is no possible way for my family to survive this long without food. All the farmers are in the same situation.”
Edris Hypolite, another farmer in the south west of the country, lost all the food that he would have used to feed his family — his mother and six siblings — for a year. “I need corn and peas seeds and plantain and cassava seedlings. I have lost my tools, therefore machete and hoes will help me to start over. If I do not get this support in November I will lose yet another harvest period and it will be much harder for me to start over.”
Jean Claude Fignole, ActionAid Haiti’s Country Director, said: “Crops like corn, rice and coffee that provide food and cash for at least 50% of families in Haiti are now rotting in fields all over the southern coast. As if this wasn’t enough, Sandy left behind an even more sinister legacy that threatens to wreak havoc in the coming months. Policy makers, donors and humanitarian agencies must act now to prevent a hunger crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions.”
ActionAid has already provided immediate support to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, with emergency shelter, sanitation kits and hygiene awareness to prevent cholera, but will have to scale down its efforts if new funding is not received.
We are currently surveying farmers in several regions to get a full picture of what help will be needed in the coming weeks and months.