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A recent press release from humanitarian organizations has shed light upon the looming threat of food insecurity in Haiti. The country has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. Currently, 3.67 million people, which equates to 35 per cent of the Haitian population, require emergency food assistance. If immediate measures are not taken to mitigate the crisis, it is estimated that 4.1 million people, or 40 per cent of the Haitian population, will be impacted by March to June of 2020. Of this 40 per cent, 12 per cent of the population will find themselves in a food emergency, meaning a disaster-induced shortfall in food supply, whereas 28 per cent will be subject to a sustained extreme shortage of food.
A number of factors have contributed to the severity of this issue. The country is highly dependent on food imports, which has made the economy susceptible to the price volatility and inflation of international markets. Prices of staple foods in Haiti are presently subject to annual inflation of about 22.6 per cent. The Haitian gourd against the US dollar faces year-on-year depreciation by about 24 per cent. In 2018 and well into 2019, rural areas of the country endured a drought that decreased agricultural production by 12 per cent. Throughout the past two decades, natural disasters have been ever-present in the country. Haiti is ranked fourth among the countries most impacted by extreme weather events. These factors, coupled with social and political tensions, have significantly compromised the accessibility of affordable food. In 2018, half of the Haitian population was undernourished, and currently, 1 in 5 children are malnourished.
In the urban centre of Port au Prince, it is estimated that 15 to 50 per cent of people are in an emergency food crisis. However, the rural areas of the country remain the most impacted by food insecurity. The Departments of North West, Artibonite, Nippes, and Grand’Anse have the highest proportion of population in need of immediate food support.
This press release comes amidst reports from the UN detailing the effects of decreasing agrobiodiversity on global food security. Humans rely on three main crops as food sources: rice, wheat, and maize. However, the growing uniformity of crops and their decreasing genetic diversity have led many to question whether they will be able to adapt to the changing climate. The UN suggests that the depletion of crop diversity will greatly impact global efforts to mitigate malnutrition and hunger. The sustainability of global crop production is integral to solving crises of food security, such as that in Haiti.
Currently, aid networks are providing food from local sources in hopes of simultaneously stabilising the economic situation in Haiti. International organizations operating in Haiti have prioritized giving aid to those most affected by the crisis. They are taking immediate action to remedy and prevent acute forms of malnutrition in vulnerable cohorts, mainly children. Organizations are working to correct the core issues of food insecurity, in hopes of both curbing the aggravation of the crisis and changing the predicted 2020 outcome. But climate change will undoubtedly present challenges to re-establishment of food security in Haiti.