Drought worsens hunger in Haiti

Some children in Haiti and Central American countries are not getting enough to eat.
Some children in Haiti and Central American countries are not getting enough to eat.

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – The UN food relief agency has committed to assisting 1.6 million people hit by droughts exacerbated by El Niño in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti and building resilience against future climatic shocks.

Speaking at the end of visits to El Salvador and Guatemala to see the compounded impact of El Niño, one of the strongest in the last half century, World Food Program (WFP) executive director Ertharin Cousin said that the agency planned to scale up to help the most vulnerable in the four countries through August.

“At the same time, working closely with governments, we are placing resilience at the heart of our longer response,” she said in Guatemala.

“We must work to ensure vulnerable people are not repeatedly pushed deeper into hunger and can build longer-lasting assets that will survive potential disasters.”

People hit by drought benefit from programs that deliver cash, cash-based vouchers and mobile transfers in El Salvador and Guatemala to obtain food – including more diversified and fresh produce – while simultaneously building local economies.

In addition, WFP and its partners provide nutrition training as well as support for reforestation, irrigation and community gardens.

Cousin visited communities in the drought-prone Dry Corridor where she talked with local people about how to overcome the impact of the extended dry period.

According to assessments by WFP and governments, more than two million people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are food insecure. Most are subsistence farmers who harvest once a year and live in the Dry Corridor.

Next, she will visit Haiti to meet vulnerable communities struggling with the impact of El Niño.

About 3.6 million people are food insecure in that country after three years of severe drought.

WFP initially responded with food distributions for a two-month period to 120,000 people. It now plans to launch an emergency operation to assist 1 million people, primarily by cash transfers. More nutrition interventions are planned to prevent a rise in acute malnutrition.

WFP needs $100 million to assist 1.6 million victims of drought through August in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti.