Hunger crisis hits Haiti after 7.2 magnitude earthquake

In a tent camp in the mountains of southern Haiti, where hundreds of villagers sought refuge after a powerful earthquake ravaged their homes this month, a single spot of maize was the only food in sight.

Haiti: In a tent camp in the mountains of southern Haiti, where hundreds of villagers sought refuge after a powerful earthquake ravaged their homes this month, a single spot of maize was the only food in sight.

“I’m hungry and my baby is hungry,” Sofonie said to Samedy, pointing to her pregnant belly.

Samedy has only eaten occasionally since the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14 devastated much of Nan Konsey, a remote farming town not far from the epicenter. In Haiti, more than 2,000 people have been killed in the quake, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

In Nan Konsey, the earth’s convulsions opened up the town’s cement bins that had accumulated drinking water, causing landslides that hampered residents’ modest livelihoods.

Since then, Samedy and the rest of the community have set up camp along the highway, about a 40-minute walk from their town, hoping to mark off the rare passing truck to ask for food and water.

“I pray I can give birth to another healthy baby, but of course I’m a little scared,” she said.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has long had one of the largest food insecurities in the world. Last year, Haiti was 104th out of 107 countries on the Global Hunger Index. By September, the United Nations said 4 million Haitians – 42% of the population – were facing acute food insecurity.

This month’s earthquake exacerbated the crisis: destroying crops and livestock, leveling markets, polluting waterways used as drinking water sources, and damaging bridges and roads necessary to reach towns like Nan Konsey.

The number of people in dire need of food aid in the three departments hardest hit by the quake – Sud, Grand’Anse and Nippes – has risen by a third since the quake, from 138,000 to 215,000, according to the World Food Program (WFP) ).

“The quake affected people who were already struggling to feed their families,” Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement.

“The compounding effects of multiple crises are devastating communities in the south facing some of the highest levels of food insecurity in the country.”

Just off the highway leading to Nan Konsey, several dozen men gathered at a goat market, where they sold their remaining livestock to obtain cash to feed their children or to pay for the funerals of family members.

Before the earthquake, farmer Michel Pierre looked after 15 goats and grew jams, potatoes, maize and banana trees. He came on the market with the only two animals that survived the earthquake.

Because his crops were also buried during landslides, he hoped to earn about $ 100 from the sale to feed himself, his wife and his children.

If the money runs out, he says, he’s not sure what he’s going to do. He has been in debt since Hurricane Matthew destroyed Haiti in 2016.

“Day by day it’s getting harder to be a farmer,” he said. “I am in the hands of God.”

Haiti was largely food-providing until the 1980s, when it began, at the urging of the United States, to reduce restrictions on crop imports and lower tariffs. A successive flood of surplus U.S. crops has put many Haitian farmers out of business and contributed to investment in the sector.

In recent years, climate change has made Hispaniola – the island that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic – increasingly vulnerable to extreme droughts and hurricanes. Rising food costs, economic decline and political instability exacerbated the deficits.

For Gethro Polyte, a teacher and farmer living north of the city of Camp-Perrin, the earthquake diminished his two main sources of income: leveling the school where he taught fourth grade, and plunging his crops and livestock into an avalanche. .

Before the disaster, he and his family were able to gather two meals a day and draw water from underground sources, he says. But since then, his food supply has declined to a few jams and bananas, and the water has been contaminated with sludge.

Polyte doubted that the school would be rebuilt so that lessons could begin in September and that he would receive a salary, given the chaos following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July. And with bank loans yet to be repaid, he doubts whether he can obtain money to invest in rebuilding his farm.

“We now live by eating something just to kill the hunger,” he said. “And, of course, things will only get worse in the coming days.”