GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The World Food Program warns Haiti is approaching famine like conditions, with more than 1 in 3 people in the country of 11 million in need of urgent assistance.
A food assessment in October finds 1 million of the nearly 3.7 million people suffering severe food shortages in Haiti are facing an emergency and are on the brink of famine.
The World Food Program reports food insecurity in Haiti's rural areas has increased by 15% since the last analysis, in December. For the first time, the assessment shows 850,000 people in the capital Port-au-Prince are suffering severe hunger, with many not sure when they will eat again.
To compound this dramatic situation, WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said humanitarian agencies' efforts to reach people in need have been hampered by security problems during the past seven weeks.
For example, he said WFP school feeding programs have been badly affected and many deliveries have had to be postponed. He said this is creating hardships for some of the most vulnerable communities in Haiti, which count on this assistance to provide food to families.
In early October, nationwide protests erupted over rising fuel prices, food shortages and corruption. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured during the government's heavy-handed response to these demonstrations. As the violence has increased, calls for the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise have become louder.
The WFP says rising prices, social and economic unrest and a drop in agricultural production have led to an increase in food insecurity in Haiti this year. The agency says it is ready to help humanitarian agencies deliver urgently needed relief to Haiti by air and sea but this depends on it receiving nearly $3 million to fund this operation.
Verhoosel said the WFP also is ready to scale up its food assistance operations, provided more money is available and security permits. Without immediate help, he warns conditions in Haiti will deteriorate further. He says it is expected the number of people needing food aid will increase to more than 4 million by early next year.