The World Food Program warns hunger is likely to increase in Haiti as the war in Ukraine causes the price of imported wheat to rise.
A recent U.N. food assessment in Haiti finds 45 percent of the population, or 4.5 million people, are facing acute hunger, with 1.5 million in need of emergency assistance.
The World Food Program attributes the rising levels of hunger to persistent political instability, growing inflation, and recurrent disasters. They include last August’s devastating earthquake, which killed thousands of people and affected nearly 1 million people.
Additionally, the WFP notes below average rainfall last year resulted in a poor harvest, while people in northern Haiti are still reeling from the aftermath of heavy flooding in late January.
WFP country director in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, says his agency fears the war in Ukraine will raise the price of food and increase hunger in Haiti. Speaking from the capital, Port-au-Prince, he notes Haiti imports about 70 percent of its food. He says wheat is mainly imported from Russia and Canada, noting wheat flour is used to bake the bread that is consumed by Haitians every day.
“This is the first meal of the day of every Haitian. So, if the wheat flour [price] is going up, you will see a problem. And as I said, the price has already multiplied by five in two years. So, we can only expect that it will multiply again. And this is a big issue.”
Honnorat points out that people who are faced with extreme hunger are forced to engage in punishing coping mechanisms to put food on the table. He says that heightens the risk of sexual exploitation and other abuse.
“Everything about those coping mechanisms that the population has to go for. And it is different. They have to change their diets. They have to reduce their meals. But it also brings them to violence. It also leads some of them to prostitution.”
The U.N. Children’s Fund says about 217,000 Haitian children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. It warns more than 86,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition could die if they do not receive timely life-saving therapeutic treatment.