PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti’s CNSA food-security agency says food shortages affect roughly 3.6 million of the country’s 10.5 million residents and that as many as 1.5 million people are going hungry.
The depreciation of the Haitian currency, an El Niño-related drought and the lack of social and political stability have all contributed to creating this “grave situation,” the regional coordinator of the World Food Program, Cedric Charpentier, told EFE Wednesday.
“Due fundamentally to the drought, up to 70 percent of the harvest has been lost in many zones of Haiti,” he said, noting that agriculture employs half of the workforce.
Central and southeastern Haiti are under red alert for malnutrition and conditions will worsen if the drought persists throughout the year, he said.
Once self-sufficient in food, Haiti now depends on imports for 75 percent of the food it consumes and the cost of those imports has increased over the last five years as the Haitian gourde has fallen from 43 to the dollar to 60.10 to the greenback.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is currently administered by a provisional government pending the election of a new president in April.
Haitians went to the polls last fall, but no candidate secured a majority and a runoff was set for December. The ballot was delayed and then ultimately cancelled after the opposition candidate dropped out, denouncing the entire process as fraudulent.
Camille Charlmers, an economist who teaches at the National University of Haiti, told EFE the situation is “very worrisome.”
“We are in full-blown crisis, not only economically, but also politically,” the professor said. “I don’t see things getting better soon. Neoliberal policy is the principal thing responsible for the crisis, the destruction of agriculture and of the local economy.”
To emerge from the crisis, he said, “we have to take serious measures with new policies and politicians. All of the governments since 1986 have prioritized free-market policies that don’t favor local production.”