Recently, global monitors issued dire warnings regarding food shortages in Haiti. They found that presently 42% of Haitians are facing a high level of food insecurity. These 4 million people urgently need food supplementation and will continue to suffer if they don’t receive it quickly. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification predicts that the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will force another 400,000 Haitians deeper into starvation1. Many of these are children who depend on adequate nutrition to achieve proper growth and brain development.
These dire predictions are echoed by other organizations as well. The World Food Programme estimated in 2018 that half of Haiti’s population was undernourished and projects a similar downward trend in food security in the future2. Our research has shown regional variations in Haiti’s malnutrition, with children being the most affected by severe malnutrition3.
While Haiti consistently experiences a high level of chronic food insecurity, acute episodes of food shortages devastate the vulnerable populations. Annual hurricanes and political instability persistently harm the vulnerable. These acute occurrences deepen the cycle of malnutrition. International support can serve to improve these acute episodes. For example, the earthquake of 2010 produced severe food shortages but was followed by such a dramatic worldwide outpouring of support that it actually served to ease the malnutrition problem in the short term.
The new acute scourge against Haiti’s nutrition struggle is Covid-19. Presently, the viral pandemic has killed over a million people, infected over 40 million people globally, and has disrupted food production and supply chain mechanics worldwide. These disruptions are the root cause of the projected increase in malnutrition cases in Haiti4.
One such casualty of this disruption is a little four-year-old girl named Berline, who was recently brought to our hospital in Thomazeau, Haiti. Her impoverished family had long experienced food insecurity and had entirely run out of food days before. Berline was listless, dehydrated, and barely able to sit up. As our medical team examined her, they found that she weighed only ten pounds, 30% of her recommended weight. We quickly began emergency treatment, and the little girl began to revive. Soon, she was well enough to enter our child nutrition program, where she joined many other children who had at one time been at death’s door due to starvation.
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