A mere two hours’ flight from Miami, USA, 4.7 million people – half of Haiti’s population – are in the throes of a food crisis.
In the Cité Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, 19,000 people are suffering at the ‘catastrophe’ level on the global scale for measuring food insecurity.
In the 1990s there was a series of coups and a trade embargo; people risked their lives to leave on boats. Free market policies ruined Haiti’s smallholder farmers and left the country heavily reliant on food imports. A succession of disasters followed, including the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak, hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Southern earthquake of 2021.
In September, protests and widespread looting erupted. Roadblocks brought the country to a standstill, what Haitians call a peyi lok (lockdown).
The peyi lok felt a lot like the ones that occurred worldwide during the early months of the Covid pandemic – except that people were now forced to stay home by fear and violence, rather than by a dangerous disease. During the peyi lok, panic-buying broke out. Supermarkets shelves grew thinner as the days went by.
Armed groups had seized the main fuel import terminal, blocking flows of diesel, the economy’s lifeblood. Humanitarians also came under attack; two of WFP’s warehouses were looted, depriving thousands of essential food assistance. Armed groups are no longer in control of the Varrreux fuel Terminal but still hold much of the city and countryside.
Haiti is experiencing a crisis on an unprecedented scale that can only worsen.