Haiti ranks 170th of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index. Despite notable improvements in some development indicators over the past two decades – including an increase of nine years in life expectancy at birth – chronic poverty is still widespread throughout the country. Many people don’t have easy access to electricity, water, sanitation or healthcare. Two children out of ten do not attend primary school, and the literacy level of the population over 10 years of age is 61 percent.
Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. 4.4 million Haitians - nearly half the population - need immediate food assistance, and among these, 1.2 million suffer from severe hunger. Over 1 million people are in a situation classified as emergency.
In 2018, half of the population was undernourished and the country’s Global Hunger Index score rose to 35 – up from 28 in 2009 – reaching the “alarming” threshold. Poor nutritional status among children is another reflection of the severity of food insecurity: 22 percent of children in the country are chronically malnourished, 10 percent are underweight and 66 percent of under-5s suffer from anemia.
Among other factors, one of the drivers of food insecurity is the poor performance of the agriculture sector and the heavy dependence on food imports, which account for more than half of the food and 83 percent of the rice consumed. This makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets. Consumer prices for major food products are 30 to 77 percent higher than in the Latin America and Caribbean region, making them unaffordable for vulnerable populations.
These issues have been exacerbated by a series of natural disasters over the past two decades, including severe storms, flooding, landslides, drought, the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in 2010 and category 4 Hurricane Matthew, which left 806,000 people in need of urgent food assistance in 2016. On the 2021 Climate Risk Index, Haiti is third among the countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working in Haiti since 1969. WFP works with the Government to build sustainable systems to address the root causes of food insecurity and promote resilience. WFP also stands ready to support the Government and the humanitarian community in case of emergency.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Haiti
WFP school feeding programme is considered to be the largest food safety net in the country. Every school day, WFP delivers hot meals to close to 300,000 children each day across more than 1,000 schools, mainly public, throughout the country. WFP is working with the Government to develop a nationally-owned school feeding programme. An important milestone was reached in 2016 with the signature of the first National School Feeding Policy, drafted in collaboration with WFP.
Support to local agriculture and markets
WFP buys local whenever possible to support local agriculture and markets in line with Government plans to revitalize the agriculture sector as a means of tackling food insecurity. WFP launched a Home-Grown School Feeding programme which uses exclusively local products from smallholder farmers. WFP buys locally an average of 800 metric ton of food annually for its Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, supporting national agriculture in line with the Government's rural development priorities.
WFP Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) initiatives address immediate food needs through cash transfers, while promoting the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience. In Haiti, WFP focuses on disaster risk reduction activities (e.g. watershed management, rehabilitation of key infrastructure and canal irrigation), involving communities, Government and partners in the design of integrated multi-sectorial and longer-term operational plans.
One of WFP’s top priority is to support the Government to develop policies that promote food security and nutrition objectives. In recent years, WFP supported the Government in updating the National Policy and Strategy for Food Sovereignty, Security and Nutrition, and developing the National School Feeding Policy. Currently, WFP is facilitating the development of the National Social Protection Policy. Since 2014, WFP has also been working with the Government to develop a national database to better identify, target and register vulnerable households (SIMAST).
To help mitigate the impact of future disasters, WFP works to ensure that stocks of emergency food are on standby in the right locations before the start of the hurricane season, which runs from June to November each year. Emergency stocks pre-positioned by WFP have enabled a swift response to every crisis for the past decade, in coordination with the Directorate of Civil Protection.
WFP is currently providing emergency food assistance to more than 150,000 people who have been affected by a prolonged drought and the deterioration of the economic situation since 2018. WFP is mostly providing cash transfers to allow people to choose how to address their essential needs while also helping to boost local markets. WFP complements this intervention with Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) activities with the goal to influence healthy behaviours for better nutrition.
Haiti: ‘Finally I own something’
Story | 30 May 2022
Earth Day: Drought, floods and how WFP climate action in Haiti and the Caribbean protects people and planet
Story | 22 April 2022
Farmers in Haiti: Growing crops in spite of drought and floods
Story | 22 March 2022
How WFP staff rose to the challenge in wake of Haiti’s earthquake
Story | 3 December 2021
WFP responds to tremors caused by the security crisis in Haiti
Story | 3 December 2021
Hot school meals help children in wake of Haiti earthquake
Story | 20 November 2021