800,000 Haitians in dire need of immediate food assistance

An assessment conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), together with the Haitian government and its National Coordination for Food Security (CNSA), has determined that in the wake of Hurricane Matthew some 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance, 800,000 of whom are in a dire situation.

The United Nations said on Monday that the emergency survey was conducted one week after the Category 4 storm, which devastated supplies and crops across the French-speaking Caribbean country.

Fifty percent of livestock was lost, and agriculture has been virtually wiped out in the Department of Grande-Anse, a department in the southwest, according to the assessment.

It said that, along the southern coast, fishing has been rendered impossible, as flooding has washed away nets, traps, boats and engines.

Without fishing income, families have no money to buy food, the assessment said.

Moreover, it said that, in the Department of Sud, just south of Grande-Anse, subsistence crops are gone, with 90 percent of the forest and fruit trees in the department severely damaged, and the remaining 10 percent unlikely to be productive in the coming season.

“Local products on the markets will soon be depleted, and we need more funding in order to continue food distributions to help 800,000 people in need of food aid, which is more than urgent,” said Miguel Barreto, regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean for WFP.

With the winter crop season approaching, the United Nations said the situation for agricultural producers who have lost everything is desperate.

“If we don’t act now to provide them with seed, fertilizer, and other materials they need, they will not be able to plant and will be faced with persisting food insecurity,” said FAO’s Representative in Haiti, Nathanaël Hishamunda.

Hishamunda said the FAO is committed to working with Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture in order to implement the emergency response plan, which will focus on helping people resume agricultural activities and improving food security in rural areas.

While the southern part of Haiti has seen some of the worst devastation, elsewhere between 60 and 90 percent of crops have been destroyed, the United Nations said.

In the Department of Artibonite, it said 60 to 80 percent of livestock were wiped out, with a 40 percent trade loss for fishing communities in the Department of Sud-Est.

In order to meet the food assistance needs in Haiti, the United Nations said the humanitarian community requires an additional US$56 million over the next three months.

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