Haiti struggles with food crisis after Hurricane Matthew

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Marines and sailors offered aid in the form of food to the Haitian city Jabouin following the wreckage of Matthew.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Marines and sailors offered aid in the form of food to the Haitian city Jabouin following the wreckage of Matthew.

BY SARAH LOFSTROM '19

Following the devastation of last month’s Hurricane Matthew, Haiti is facing its worst food crisis since 2001. According to the BBC, he United Nations World Food Program is spearheading a $120 million appeal in order to help curb the high levels of malnutrition and fund the restoration of valuable crop acreage and agriculture in Haiti. Hurricane Matthew was the strongest hurricane to hit the Caribbean in a decade and has affected 2.1 million people, 1.5 million of whom are in need of immediate aid. The country is now in need of substantial international aid, without which the food shortages will inevitably worsen.

The interim president of Haiti, Jocelerme Privert told the BBC “We need between $25 and $30 million to resolve the farming issue. Right now we have $2.5 million.” Prior to the Hurricane, Haiti was already deep into the third year of a severe drought, and as a result, there were high levels of malnutrition. The hurricane wiped out tens of thousands of acres of essential crop land and millions of fruit trees, according to Ann Lee, chief executive of nonprofit relief organization J/P Haitian Relief Organization. According to the Los Angeles Times,  half of Haiti’s working population is employed in the agricultural sector.

The Los Angeles Times further reports that the crisis falls at a politically unstable time for Haiti. Former president Michel Martelly’s term expired in February and he left office without electing a successor, throwing the country into a state of political discord. Haiti was left without a president until April, when the current interim president was elected.

The Independent reports that Haiti has also been grappling with a cholera epidemic that has spread since the hurricane hit in early October. 10 days after Hurricane Matthew, over 200 cases of cholera were reported. The priority of the World Health Organization in Haiti is to secure clean, potable drinking water to decrease cholera rates. WHO sent a million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti in anticipation of the high risk rainy season from November to January. Haiti was hit with the same cholera epidemic during the 2010 earthquake, in which the disease alone killed 10,000 people. The outbreak in 2010 was initially caused by UN Peacekeepers who emptied toilet waste into the Meille River, a major source of water for Haitians. Since Hurricane Matthew, WHO has deployed 80 additional members to help deal with the growing epidemic in Haiti.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has resumed deportations back to Haiti after a brief pause following the hurricane and its devastating effect on the Haitian infrastructure and population. According to The Independent, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke from New York said that she was “deeply saddened” to hear that deportations have resumed. The influx of people back into the country will only “exacerbate the difficulties of rebuilding Haiti,” Clarke added. 

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