Many countries throughout the world are stuggling with drought and food insecurity related to El Nino. According to FEWS-NET agricultural production in Haiti is fifty percent below normal and coping mechanisms are being exhausted. Associated Press reporter David McFadden's describes the impact that food insecurity is having on parts of the Haitian countryside. The full article follows.
The Haitian Government and the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET) report that a drought is causing food insecurity in northeast Haiti due to the loss of crops and livestock. The National Coordination of Food Security Office and the World Food Program (WFP) are planning a response which will involve seed distribution to farmers and food distribution more broadly. Below is a Miami Herald article with more information.
Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, one hopes that promoting agriculture and rehabilitating the environment will be high priorities for the next administration. Countries that import the majority of their food staples, as Haiti does, are vulnerable to price shocks when international food prices increase. Rural development depends in large part upon making agriculture viable again. This will require tackling environmental degradation, improving disaster preparedness, upgrading infrastructure and resolving long simmering land tenure issues. These challenges are difficult but not insurmountable.
In the weeks to come, I’ll provide updates on recovery efforts in Haiti sector by sector. Why start with education? After an emergency or a natural disaster, schools provide an opportunity to protect children physically and psychologically. It re-establishes a sense of routine, stability, and above all, hope for a better future. Technical and vocational education will be critical for developing a new generation of skilled workers and leaders. Without educational reform, Haiti’s recovery and long term development will be held back.
The Haiti Donors' Conference is taking place today, which you can view by clicking here. In the meantime, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has released a report and recommednations for stabilizing and reconstructing Haiti. The report makes clear that stability demands a difficult balancing act between meeting immediate humanitarian needs, which will only become more pronounced during the rainy season, and laying the groundwork for long term recovery. An accountable government, an informed civil society, and an engaged Diaspora are key. The executive summary/recommendations are copied below and the complete report is attached.
Immediately after the earthquake, information came out of Haiti in a trickle. It is now more like a flood. As of February 3, the Government of Haiti (GOH) increased its death toll estimate to over 200,000. 300,000 are reported to have been injured, 250,000 homes destroyed, and 30,000 businesses disrupted. Assessments carried out by MINUSTAH now indicate a 15-20% population increase in the South, Grand Anse, Nippes, and Central Plateau departments due to displacement from Port-au-Prince. Below is a summary of where things stand in terms of emergency response and recovery.
The suffering caused by the earthquake is difficult to fully comprehend. Haitian authorities report that at least 72,000 bodies have been recovered. Some predict the final death toll will be as high as 150,000 in Port au Prince alone. Up to 1.5 million people may be homeless. ICRC reports approximately 55,000 people in 40 informal temporary camps throughout the city. As you read this, many people are going back to the countryside. While most of the damage took place in the southern portion of Haiti, the whole country will be affected. The Government has declared a period of national mourning until February 17. We all grieve for what Haiti has lost.
Immediately after the earthquake, the main source of information was Twitter, which I have a new respect for. Journalists and aid workers are arriving in Haiti and we are gaining a better sense of just how extensive the damage to Port au Prince is. We also know that Jacmel was seriously affected as well. Aid from the United States, other governments, and humanitarian responders both big and small is picking up. This is a summary of the current situation, who is doing what where, and how you can help. Additional updates will be posted as comments.
When people think of Haiti, they often think of hunger, and not without reason. Though there has been significant progress over the past year, hunger remains a pervasive problem. Achieving food security is fundamental to nutrition, health, education, economic growth, stability and all the other issues we lump under “development.” There are well intentioned groups, such as this one from Kansas, that often try to send packages of food to Haiti. It might make one feel good, but in reality, it does little good. There is much that we can do to promote food security in Haiti, but it is up to us to ensure that our time, energy, and resources make an actual, and not just a perceived, difference.
Haiti faced a number of challenges in 2009 including decreased remittances from the Diaspora as well as a messy transition at the Prime Ministerial level. All things considered though, Haiti enters 2010 stronger than it was at the beginning of 2009. The capacity of ministries to deliver basic services is improving and partnerships have been solidified with the United States, Canada, and a number of Latin American and European governments. Haiti has more investment opportunities than at any other time in the post-embargo era. The next challenge will be the February 2010 legislative elections, already controversial. Improving food security will undoubtedly be an important theme throughout the new year.