An increasing number of Haitians are at risk of being driven deeper into poverty and hunger as Haiti faces its worst food crisis in 15 years, the United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday.
The U.N. agency, which is launching an $84 million appeal to help stave off extreme malnutrition and deaths in an already fragile Haiti, is blaming the emerging crisis on the El Niño weather phenomenon. Already blamed for some of the worst drought conditions around the globe, the weather event has left some Haitian farmers facing up to 70 percent crop losses and has doubled the number of food insecure people in the country since September.
“We are seeing the malnutrition rates dramatically increased,” said Wendy Bigham, WFP deputy country director. “This is really a severe food crisis.”
The crisis couldn’t come at a worse time for Haiti, which is facing a power vacuum after its president left office Sunday without an elected successor. A 120-day provisional government has yet to be installed, and some in the opposition are accusing the country’s only sworn-in elected officials, the parliament, of staging “a coup d’etat” after the leaders of both chambers signed a last-minute deal with outgoing President Michel Martelly. The accord outlines the steps for putting in an interim president and consensus prime minister in the coming days.
Add to the ongoing power vacuum, the country’s domestic currency, the gourde, continues to depreciate against the U.S. dollar. Before the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, it cost 43 gourdes to buy one greenback. Today, it’s 61.25 gourdes.
The rampantly depreciating gourde, combined with the drought, have created inflationary pressures, said economist Kesner Pharel.
“In 2015, the average price in the economy, particularly the food price, reached the highest level since 2008 when there was an international food crisis,” he said noting that inflation was more than 12 percent in December.
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