An estimated 3.7 million Haitians, or roughly 33% of the island nation, require immediate food assistance, according to Reuters. Over the course of 2020, 4.6 million Haitians will require emergency humanitarian aid.
A destabilizing mix of drought, economic dysfunction, and political turmoil have caused widespread food shortages and spikes in the costs of basic goods. Nearly 1.2 million people could soon enter a state where they’re only eating one meal every other day, the United Nations warns.
“The situation is expected to remain unstable in the coming months, which will further weaken the country’s economy and, consequently, the ability of the poorest Haitians to meet their basic needs as well as the capacity of the State to provide essential services,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) said in a statement.
In recent years, Haiti has faced severe droughts that have devastated local agricultural production and diminished the ability of trees to yield fruits and nuts.
Haiti is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and the prolonged droughts are an early warning sign of what the island could face in the decades ahead.
Political turmoil has also contributed to the hunger crisis. As protests over political corruption disrupt the streets of major cities, businesses have closed and the distribution of food aid has been disrupted.
The protesters are angry about the government failing to provide basic services and allegedly siphoning foreign aid meant to help ordinary citizens, according to PBS.
“It’s about accountability, it’s about making politicians accountable to society,” Emmanuela Douyon, a 29-year-old economist who lives in Port-au-Prince and has been participating in demonstrations, told PBS. “In Haiti, we can fight corruption as well. And it’s about time they stop and listen to us.”
Haiti’s economy has struggled to provide opportunities for ordinary citizens for decades. Inflation is perpetually high and the average income is low, PBS notes. As the protesters face off against the government, ordinary goods are becoming harder to access.
The growing hunger crisis is affecting people living in the northwest, where poverty is most severe, according to Reuters.
Children, in particular, are threatened with the prospect of malnutrition and stunting.
OCHA is asking for $252 million to provide humanitarian air to the population. Last year’s request for $126 million was only 32% funded.