Haiti faces ‘hunger emergency’ amid escalating gang violence and surging inflation

Acute hunger is affecting 4.9 million Haitians, according to a UN report, which outlines the increased need for humanitarian aid

Haitians are increasingly desperate for humanitarian aid as gang violence engulfing the country has left nearly half the population regularly going hungry, a World Food Programme (WFP) report has found.

“These are the worst conditions on record,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP’s Haiti director. “Food insecurity in Haiti has been going downhill and Haiti is sliding into a hunger emergency.”

Acute hunger is now affecting 4.9 million people in the country, the UN organisation estimates, and Haitians have been finding it increasingly difficult to buy enough food since the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated at his home in July 2021 and the island nation has sunk increasingly into violence.

As warring armed groups have seized control of much of the country, its economy has collapsed, inflation has risen to 49.3% and gang leaders have restricted access to food and water. Now, a lack of rain has also reduced crop yields. Inflation has also made food more costly and contributed to 200,000 more Haitians going hungry since the WFP published its last report in September 2022.

“It is critical that life-saving food assistance keeps reaching the most vulnerable Haitians and resilience and safety-net initiatives continue being prioritised so we can address the root causes of hunger,” said Bauer.

The country’s overlapping crises are predicted to deteriorate as violence persists. Haitian rights group RNDDH estimates gangs, not state security forces, now control all of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and more than half of the country.

Schoolchildren run for cover amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti 3 March 2023.
Schoolchildren run for cover amid gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 3 March 2023. Photograph: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters

Rape and sexual violence are also being used to terrorise, said Pascale Solages, co-founder of the Haitian feminist group Nègès Mawon, at a hearing of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights earlier this month. Since last May, she said, her organisation has received reports of more than 650 cases of rape across just part of the capital.

Another UN report, published on Tuesday, said 531 people have been shot dead and 277 kidnapped by gangs since January. Gangs are expanding their control in the Artibonite Department, a vast central Haitian state where much of the country’s rice is grown. Turf wars in the country’s breadbasket will probably exacerbate hunger.

The UN is calling for the deployment of an international “specialised support force” to restore order to Haiti, and the US president, Joe Biden, is expected to lobby his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, to lead it while in talks in Ottawa this week.

Tervile Eliuse, a school principal and church pastor, with his son at a makeshift refugee camp set up by people escaping gang activity in Port-au-Prince.
Tervile Eliuse, a school principal and church pastor, with his son at a makeshift camp set up by people escaping gang activity in Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Richard Pierrin/AFP/Getty Images

While the number of those going hungry has increased, the WFP highlighted some positive news: the famine-like conditions it recorded for 20,000 people in the sprawling gang-run slum of Cité Soleil have been eradicated. However, the organisation warned that it is unlikely it will be able to continue delivering such gains unless it receives financial support.

The WFP has reached 850,000 Haitians this year and hopes to reach 2.5 million by the end of 2023, but the organisation is underfunded and requires $125m (£102m) over the next six months from donors.

“We are very concerned that the cost of inaction would be counted in grief for the local population. Lack of assistance right now in Haiti would only contribute to the problems that country is facing in terms of security and stability,” said Bauer.


Luke Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Haiti faces hunger catastrophe after hurricane Sandy destroys harvests
Thousands could die from malnutrition as storms Sandy and Issac devastate farmlands and trigger severe food crisis

Mark Tran

12, Nov, 2012 @5:03 PM

Article image
Hurricane-ravaged Haiti has 'alarming' levels of hunger and malnutrition
More than half the country’s population are undernourished, reports the 2016 global hunger index, while around the world one in four children is stunted

John Vidal

11, Oct, 2016 @1:03 PM

Article image
‘We pray for rain’: Ethiopia faces catastrophic hunger as cattle perish in severe drought
Animal carcasses litter the land in areas where the rains have failed, as millions go without enough food and water in a country already grappling with civil war

Mulugeta Ayene in Jijiga and Lizzy Davies

30, Jan, 2022 @7:30 AM

Article image
Gang warfare traps thousands in Haiti slum as fuel crisis add to desperation
Calls for aid to be let into Port-au-Prince district after weeks of violence leave dozens dead and cut supplies of food and water

Joe Parkin Daniels

16, Jul, 2022 @6:45 AM

Article image
The year's top development stories: 2017 in review
As Donald Trump cut funding for family planning and people from east Africa to Yemen went hungry, peace finally gained a foothold in Colombia

Lucy Lamble

25, Dec, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
World’s poorest bear brunt of climate crisis: 10 underreported emergencies
Care International report highlights ‘deep injustice’ neglected by world’s media, as extreme weather along with Covid wipes out decades of progress

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

14, Jan, 2022 @6:15 AM

Article image
Yemen hunger crisis leaves refugee chief 'shocked to the bones'
Leading humanitarian official Jan Egeland condemns ‘gigantic diplomatic failure’ as funding shortfall threatens to make food aid unavailable to millions by July

Karen McVeigh

03, May, 2017 @2:46 PM

Article image
‘Trying to survive’: millions in Tigray face hunger as they wait in vain for aid
With aid unable to reach the war-torn Ethiopian region for months, hundreds of thousands are in ‘famine-like conditions’

Reporter in Addis Ababa

23, Mar, 2022 @7:15 AM

Article image
‘On bad days, we don’t eat’: Hunger grows for thousands displaced by conflict in Chad
As war forces more to flee, humanitarian organisations facing funding shortfalls and increasing demand are unable to keep pace

Zeinab Mohammed Salih

17, May, 2021 @6:15 AM

Article image
Haiti receives its first batch of cholera vaccines to tackle deadly outbreak
Campaign to stem the spread of the disease takes place against a backdrop of political chaos, gang violence and fuel shortages

Luke Taylor

22, Dec, 2022 @7:15 AM