Nearly Two Million Haitians Going Hungry

By Dialogo
October 16, 2009

Some 1.9 million people in Haiti -- more than one in four Haitians -- are undernourished, according to a new report by the country's National Food Security Coordination Unit (CNSA). Haiti's Minister for Women's Affairs Marie-Laurence Lassegue said rural women are among worst affected and tend to suffer disproportionately. "Rural women are among the first victims of crisis and are the worst hit," she said on Thursday, when United Nations marks Rural Women's Day. CNSA Director Pierre-Gary Mathieu noted that the situation has improved somewhat in the country since 2008, when three million Haitians were without food in the wake of four devastating hurricanes. He attributed the improvements to a good spring harvest and "the combined efforts of the government and non-governmental organizations, which have distributed plenty of food to disaster zones and invested in agriculture." Nevertheless, Mathieu warned that the number of Haitians going hungry could quickly shoot back up to 2008 levels if crisis struck again. "The risk of new storms, unavailability of food products, difficulties accessing production zones and the quality of the available food products, along with high rates of poverty, are among the factors that could produce a new crisis," he said. Children under the age of five, women, and HIV/AIDS patients are among the most vulnerable, said Mathieu, whose organization published the report a day ahead of the Food and Agriculture Organization's World Food Day. The group recommends continued support for school cafeterias and an increase in environmental protection projects, which could provide jobs in a country suffering from nearly 60 percent unemployment. The World Food Program (WFP) and its partners have prepositioned more than 8,000 tonnes of food ready to be distributed in 13 regions in Haiti, which is among 16 countries identified by the WFP as particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.