UNITED NATIONS (AP) – A record 4.7 million people in Haiti are facing acute hunger, including 19,000 for the first time in catastrophic famine, all in a slum controlled by gangs in the capital, according to a report released Friday. .
The UN’s World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said that unrelenting crises have trapped Haitians in a cycle of mounting despair, without access to food, fuel, markets, jobs and public services, bringing the country to a standstill.
The Cite Soleil district of the capital Port-au-Prince, where violence has increased as armed gangs battle for control, faces the most urgent need for humanitarian aid, they said.
The report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a global partnership of 15 UN agencies and international humanitarian groups, paints a grim picture of escalating hunger in the poorest country in the Latin Western Hemisphere,
The partnership uses five categories of food security, from Phase 1 where people have enough to eat to Phase 5 where households are extremely deprived of food and face famine, famine, death and poverty. The 19,000 people in Cite Soleil now belong to the latter group, the report said.
According to the analysis, a record 4.7 million Haitians are in the three worst categories: 2.9 million in “crisis” Phase 3 marked by gaps in food consumption and acute malnutrition, 1.8 million in “emergency” Phase 4 where there are major gaps are in food consumption, very high acute malnutrition and excessive deaths, and 19,000 in “famine” Stage 5.
According to the report, food security has also deteriorated further in Haiti’s rural areas, with some moving from the ‘crisis phase’ into the ’emergency phase’.
The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said food insecurity has increased over the past three years and that 65% of Haitians are “highly food insecure and 5% of them are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.”
Haiti is gripped by inflation and political deadlock that have exacerbated protests and brought society to a breaking point.
Everyday life in the country began to spiral out of control last month, just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be abolished, causing prices to double. Rising prices have put food and fuel out of reach for many Haitians, clean water is scarce and the country is fighting a cholera outbreak.
“Harvest losses from below-average rainfall and last year’s earthquake that devastated parts of the south of the country are among the shocks that have worsened conditions for people,” said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.
He said violence, unrest and tensions in Cite Soleil have limited access to the district for humanitarian workers.
“So we don’t necessarily know how bad it will get, although it is very clear that it is very bad indeed. And we need to access people; we need to make sure we can get food to the people,” he said.
The World Food Program aims for $105 million over the next six months, while the Food and Agriculture Organization said it urgently needs about $33 million.
Jean-Martin Bauer, Haiti country director for the World Food Programme, said: “We all need to stand firm and focus on delivering urgent humanitarian aid and supporting long-term development.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Haiti, Jose Luis Fernandez Filgueiras, said: “We must help Haitians produce better, more nutritious food to secure their livelihoods and their future.”
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