Current issues and what the World Food Programme is doing
Haiti ranks 168 out of 187countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Five years after the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s population of 10.4 million continues to face humanitarian and development challenges. Since 2004, a UN Stabilisation Mission has helped restore and maintain order; but unrest is expected to escalate as presidential, legislative and local government elections are held in 2015.
What are the current issues in Haiti
In Haiti, 59 percent of people live in poverty and close to 25 percent in extreme poverty. Three-quarters of Haitians live on less than US$2 per day and half of the population earns less than US$1 per day. Many people don’t have ready access to electricity, water, sanitation, and healthcare.
Recurring natural disasters
Poverty, depletion of the environment and the limited capacity of the authorities to respond to a crisis means that Haiti is highly vulnerable to even moderate climatic shocks. Over the last two decades, Haiti has been repeatedly affected by a series of severe natural disasters, the worst of which was the devastating earthquake on the 12th of January 2010. Recurrent natural disasters include severe storms (notably hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012), flooding, landslides and drought. They worsen environmental degradation (principally deforestation and soil erosion), destroy livelihoods and hamper economic recovery and growth. At extreme risk, Haiti ranked sixth in the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change (2014 Maplecroft Index).
Food insecurity is persistent in Haiti and today nearly 30 percent of the population is considered food insecure; of these 165,000 people are in severe food insecurity, and 860,000 would require immediate assistance should their situation be further weakened. Currently, five percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and almost half of women aged 15 to 49 and 65 percent of children under five are anaemic.
Low national food production
In Haiti, national production accounts for about 50 percent of food needs, with the difference covered by imports. WFP aims to set up sustainable mechanisms for the integration of locally produced, seasonally available food into school meal menus. Agriculture provides 50 percent of jobs in the country and accounts for 25 percent of the GDP, but Haiti fails to produce enough food for its population’s needs. Food imports meet more than 80 percent of its main staple, rice (2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World, FAO, IFAD and WFP). Any price hikes in international markets or interruption in government fuel subsidies would increase the cost of living and put pressure on Haitians’ pockets.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Haiti
This year, WFP plans to reach over one million food insecure Haitians in all ten departments through school meals, food assistance for assets (FFA), nutrition interventions, and disaster preparedness and response.
School meals programme
In recent years, WFP has increased its support of the Government’s National School Meals Programme, with the goal of facilitating a nationally-owned school feeding programme linked to local agricultural production by 2030. Today, WFP directly assists 485,000 school children with daily school meals. School meals are a priority in Haiti: in a country where 30 percent of the population is food insecure, a daily meal at school is a simple way to ensure that children receive at least one nutritious meal every day. This provides between 30 to 45 percent of daily recommended calorie intake. Simply, this helps keep children in school. Another WFP priority is to increase the quantity of food purchased locally and used in the school meals program. This is done in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. A new WFP pilot programme launched in the department of Nippes in September 2015 will provide schools with locally produced foods by buying directly from small farmers, in this way improving children’s diet diversity and stimulating local markets. .
Cash for assets
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO, Food for Assets activities target 225,000 people to reinforce the resilience and reduce community vulnerability to future shocks while meeting immediate food needs. Under this activity, participants are provided with cash transfers for their participation in asset creation activities which rehabilitate productive infrastructure, protect watersheds, build rural farmers’ skills and improve their families’ food security. WFP has recently supported over 21,000 people in rebuilding essential community assets such as irrigation canals, watersheds and soil through the Cash for Assets program in the West and North-East departments.
Immediately after the earthquake, it was difficult to measure the impact of the catastrophe on children under 5 and on pregnant and lactating women. Over the course of the past five years, part of WFP’s goals in Haiti include strengthening emergency preparedness, which means working to reduce acute malnutrition. In accordance with this goal, under the 2013-2017 Kore Lavi project, in partnership with CARE and Action contre la Faim, WFP delivers supplementary food rations to prevent increases in acute malnutrition rates. The beneficiaries include 5,000 children under five, as well as 40,000 children under two and 31,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers who receive complementary feeding through the 1,000 Days approach to prevent stunting and micronutrient deficiencies.
Because of Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, WFP is working closely with the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection to ensure the country is ready to respond to emergencies. Together, during the first half of 2015, they have set up four pilot emergency radio communication centers, with the goal of later expanding to 25 sites. The objective is to bolster local and national capacity to respond quickly to disasters. In 2015, WFP prepositioned food (high-energy biscuits and general food distribution rations) prior to hurricane season, which lasts from June through November, to cover the potential relief needs of up to 300,000 people for a month. Prepositioning is important because when Haiti is hit by torrential rains, many roads can become impassable. With stocks already in place, WFP will be able to reach the population quickly.
Featured Haiti publications
A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.
Looking for more publications on Haiti? Visit the Haiti publications archive.