Haiti: Hunger, economic crisis stall recovery a year after devastating earthquake
Seven-year-old Entha and her family, whose home was destroyed in last August’s earthquake. Photo credit: Cristina Bassen/Save the Children.
Haiti is trapped in a hunger and security crisis after a massive earthquake killed more than 2,200 people in the Caribbean nation a year ago, with about 4.5 million people experiencing acute food insecurity (IPC3 or higher) compared to 4.4 million people prior to the earthquake.
Haiti is currently experiencing a major economic crisis, with inflation at 26%, making it difficult for families to afford food and other essentials, or to sell crops at local markets.
Across the country, hunger is becoming a norm for children, many of whom have no idea if they will get food tomorrow. In food crises, children are always the most vulnerable and at risk of becoming acutely malnourished without enough to eat and the right nutritional balance. Malnutrition can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase the risk of contracting deadly diseases, and ultimately cause death.
On 14 August last year, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Tiburon Peninsula near Petit-Trou-de-Nippes in Haiti, about 150km west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The first quake was followed by a series of aftershocks, impacting more than 800,000 people including 340,000 children.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Save the Children deployed a team to respond to the needs of children and their families in the worst affected areas of South and Grand-Anse, including rolling out emergency education, protection, water and hygiene, health and nutrition programs, and cash assistance, for more than 100,000 people.
Entha, a 7-year-old girl from the southwest region of Haiti, lost her home, crops and belongings in last year´s earthquake. Entha’s family received cash and other support from Save the Children, with which they were able to rebuild their house with aluminium sheets and pay school fees. However, the worsening economic crisis across the country has meant the family is now going hungry daily.
Entha said: “When I don’t eat, I don’t feel good because that makes me sad. I can’t go play anymore. It’s because I am hungry.
“Save the Children sent a cash transfer to my mother, so she was able to buy food. The food made me happy, and I was also happy for the money they sent because my mother did not have money to buy food.”
Perpetue Vendredi, Director of Programme Operations, Save the Children in Haiti, said:
“In the past 12 months we have seen a worrying trend of hunger increasing across Haiti. Increasing numbers of hunger cases is becoming a great challenge for children and their families; more help is needed.
“Thanks to the support of donors, Save the Children has been able to provide life-saving assistance to thousands of people whose lives crumbled on 14 August 2021. In the past year, while many people have been able to rebuild their houses, for many others the situation remains precarious. The humanitarian response is still woefully underfunded as this crisis has been largely ignored as other global events have taken over.
“We are calling on donors to provide additional, flexible funding to support the scale-up of urgent lifesaving services to the most at-risk communities. Children and their families are in desperate need of food, nutrition, health, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and social protection and livelihoods support to prevent widespread malnutrition, illness, starvation, and death.
“As well as scaled-up funding for immediate, lifesaving services, donors must continue to invest in early warning and anticipatory action to better manage the risk of hunger crises and mitigate against its impacts before it is too late.”
Save the Children has supported five health centers and hospitals to resume primary health services following the earthquake, including sexual and reproductive health services, antenatal and postnatal care, as well as mental health referrals. Save the Children is also running 11 nutrition centers for maternal and infant nutrition counseling, awareness raising, and malnutrition screening; and training programs for frontline health workers, community health workers, and partners.
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