WFP and UNICEF Executive Directors visit Haiti to galvanize international support amid record humanitarian needs
Unprecedented hunger and malnutrition threaten lives across the country
PORT-AU-PRINCE – The heads of UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) ended missions to Haiti today, calling for far more support for highly vulnerable children and families who face rampant violence, deadly natural disasters, and a resurgence of cholera.
“Haiti’s hunger crisis is unseen, unheard, and unaddressed. Violence and climate shocks capture the headlines, but we don’t hear as much about the 4.9 million Haitians struggling to eat day-to-day,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “Per capita, the proportion of Haitians facing emergency-level food insecurity is the second highest in the world – we cannot abandon them.”
“Humanitarian needs are even greater today than after the devastating 2010 earthquake, but with far less resources to respond,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “I have seen and heard how Haitian children and families are overcoming insurmountable challenges, and they are not giving up. In the country’s hour of most profound need, neither should the international community.”
Overall, 5.2 million people require urgent humanitarian support, including nearly 3 million children. Some 4.9 million people are struggling to feed themselves, and over 115,000 children below five years old are projected to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition this year, a 30 percent spike since last year. The healthcare system is near collapse, schools have been attacked by armed groups and civilians are being terrorized and deprived of livelihoods. In the capital’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, women and children are suffering staggering levels of sexual violence. Deadly floods and an earthquake in June were stark reminders of Haiti’s vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters.
Russell and McCain held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and other government officials and visited a UNICEF and WFP-supported school.
In the city of Jérémie, McCain met farmers and food processors who provide Haitian-grown food for schools and interacted with people who receive monthly cash-based transfers under a social safety net programme. She also visited a food preparation centre in Port-au-Prince, where WFP and its partner provide hot meals which are transported daily to schools in areas affected by armed violence in Cité Soleil.
Russell, who was recently named Principal Advocate for Haiti for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a collective body of senior humanitarian leaders, visited a site for families displaced from their homes due to the violence, where UNICEF supports a mobile health clinic. She also spoke privately to children and women survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the armed groups, and a nutrition centre where severely wasted children receive life-saving therapeutic care with UNICEF support.
Despite the magnitude of needs, only 23 percent of the US$720 million required for the 2023 UN response has been funded. WFP needs US$330 million to reach its goal of assisting 2.3 million people in 2023, while UNICEF is appealing for US$246 million to reach 1.7 million children this year.
Russell and McCain called for timely and flexible funding that can quickly be directed to where needs are the most urgent.
“Haiti will never be at peace when almost half the population is hungry. With peace comes the hope for a good plate of food on the table and a better future,” the WFP Executive Director said. “We cannot wait for Haitians to die from hunger before acting, we need to fund the future of Haiti, today.”
Russell underscored the urgency of a more robust humanitarian response for those in most urgent need, the restoration of basic services and longer-term development solutions. The private and public sectors and International Financial Institutions must step up their support to Haiti with a renewed sense of urgency, she said.
“People in Haiti are in perpetual survival mode, with no safety net whatsoever,” said Russell. “The international community can help put in place the basic requirements Haitian families tell us they need such as health, education, social and protection services. Above all, what they told me is that they desperately need an end to the violence and insecurity.”
NOTE TO EDITORS:
UNICEF and partners intend to reach all 115,000 children projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year with life-saving treatment. UNICEF is the sole provider of the ready-to-use therapeutic food, which is procured from a local supplier. We work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen supply chain systems, and with communities to strengthen the first line of defence from malnutrition – the mothers and community health workers who are best placed to screen children and refer those in need of treatment. In areas where access is a challenge, we are sending in mobile clinics to deliver an integrated package of health and nutrition services.
UNICEF and partners have reached tens of thousands of children and families with healthcare, safe water, sanitation, and education support. We are working to help keep systems afloat, including by retaining newly graduated teachers and community healthcare workers to strengthen systems that children rely on. Our work is focused specifically on reaching the most vulnerable – and often the hardest to reach, children and families.
WFP’s focus remains on supporting the Haitian food economy by buying directly from farmers and through large-scale cash transfers, which stimulates local markets and empowers people to make their own purchasing decisions. Meanwhile, WFP continues to deliver of life-saving food to the most vulnerable people, especially in areas of extreme violence.
So far this year, WFP has assisted 1.4 million people in Haiti with over US$31 million in cash-based transfers and more than 5,500 MT of food commodities. Over 217,000 hot meals have been distributed in IDP sites, cholera treatment centres and at border crossings. WFP’s school meal programme provides 450,000 children with hot school meals. Nearly half of all food purchased for school meals is grown in Haiti.
Principal Advocate on Haiti for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee
UNICEF Executive Director Russell is the Principal Advocate on Haiti for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a collective body of senior humanitarian leaders. As Principal Advocate for Haiti at the request of the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, Russell will help lead the international humanitarian community’s effort to galvanize attention, support and resources at a moment of unprecedented need in the country. She will be engaging with Haitian civil society, government and international partners to help expand access for safe, dignified, and predictable humanitarian assistance and protection for children and their families and create a pathway for new solutions.