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We must rescue Haiti with food aid as starvation looms for millions. Resources for humanitarian aid are running out in Haiti, so we must urgently increase funding for the relief mission.
Just one year after a massive earthquake, Haitians are reeling from a series of tragedies. Increasing gang violence, political instability, drought, storms and COVID-19 have also contributed to increasing hunger. Food prices have skyrocketed, especially since the war in Ukraine started. Many Haitian families cannot afford basic foods.
Over 1 million Haitians are facing severe hunger, level 4 classification, according to the United Nations World Food Program. These Haitians are on the brink of starvation. Five is the worst level of hunger classification: famine.
Another 3.1 million Haitians are in phase 3 hunger. About half of the population of Haiti is in phase 3 level of hunger or higher. Should conditions persist or another disaster strikes, more Haitians could fall closer to famine.
Escalating gang violence is making it hard to reach Haitians in need and also leading to more people needing assistance. A Haitian mother, Christina, told World Food Program’s Theresa Piorr that she spent an entire day hiding under her bed as gunshots were fired outside on the street. Christina’s home was eventually torched and she fled to a World Food Program center for displaced persons.
Gang violence has displaced people from their homes and blocked roads that humanitarian aid trucks typically use to deliver assistance.
Jean-Martin Bauer, World Food Program’s Country Director for Haiti, says “Large parts of the population have been cut off from the economic heart of the country, We are seeing hunger rise significantly in the capital and south of the country, with Port-au-Prince being the hardest hit. This comes at a time when Haiti is already dealing with the effects of COVID-19, recent natural disasters, high inflation, and rising costs as a ripple effect of the conflict in Ukraine.”
Laura Phelan of Catholic Relief Services adds, “the continued violence disrupts the movement of goods between the capital and rural regions, driving up prices and affecting people’s ability to buy the things they need. The significant transportation difficulties created by the violence cuts traders off from the main markets, impacting agricultural production and commerce.”
For the World Food Program and other aid groups to reach the hungry, they must use air and sea routes rather than land ones. This of course is more expensive. World Food Program is already facing a shortage of at least $39 million in funding for Haiti operations.
World Food Program also needs funding for the Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) it uses to move people and supplies while avoiding the gangs. The whole humanitarian community depends on this WFP air service to move about the country. Tragically its funding is running out.
Bauer explains, “The only safe option for humanitarians to move is by air, and without adequate funding, UNHAS faces imminent closure by the end of July 2022. Ultimately, this puts not only WFP’s assistance but humanitarian operations across the country at risk.”
We must ensure WFP and other relief agencies in Haiti have the necessary funding to provide relief, and to do it safely, avoiding the gang violence.
Food is a major source of stability for Haiti as it tries to regain control of the country from the gangs. So it’s vital we support the hunger relief mission with full funding.
The school meal program and infant nutrition are vital for Haiti’s children. We must make sure there is funding to continue both. We should envision a Haiti where every child receives infant nutrition and school meals so they can grow strong and learn. Local farms need to be able to support the meal programs.
There is a long way to go to achieve stability and food for all in Haiti. But we must do everything possible to help them and it starts by ensuring no Haitian goes hungry during the current crisis.
You can help by donating to charities feeding the hungry in Haiti including WFP, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, CARE and others. You can write to Congress urging an increase in global food aid to help Haiti and the many other countries at risk of famine.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the United Nations World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”
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