U.N. aid agencies warn civil unrest, gang violence, skyrocketing inflation, and a lack of access to basic services have plunged Haiti into a state of crisis.
A recent U.N. food analysis finds nearly half of Haiti's population, or 4.7 million people, are facing acute hunger. Of those, it says close to 1.8 million people have reached emergency levels of hunger with many people unable to find enough to eat on any given day.
World Food Program Country Director in Haiti Jean-Martin Bauer says soaring inflation rates of 30 percent have caused food prices to rise more than 63 percent over last year's levels. He says fuel is in short supply and a gallon can cost more than $10 a liter. That, he says, makes it impossible for thousands of people to go to work and earn a living.
Bauer says gang violence has displaced 25,000 people in the urban neighborhood of Cite Soleil in the capital, Port-au-Prince. He says the country has been in political lockdown since September.
"This means that people cannot get to work, people cannot access markets," he said. "There has also been a slowdown in social service provisions. Some hospitals have closed because they do not have fuel anymore. And of course, there has been a cholera outbreak that started a few weeks ago."
The latest World Health Organization report puts the number of suspected cholera cases at 357, including 35 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.
UNICEF reports 100,000 children under age five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Agency spokesman James Elder says children are especially vulnerable to the cholera outbreak.
"They are at least three times more likely than to die if they do contract cholera. … Those children who are weak and lacking nutritious food, and then catching cholera and then those side effects of diarrhea and vomiting, that is very close to a death sentence for those children," Elder said.
U.N. agencies warn conditions in Haiti are bad and getting worse. They say Haiti is reaching a breaking point and needs the international community to act urgently to help the country get out of its catastrophic situation.