Sharp increase in food aid needs after major earthquake
Food aid needs rose sharply in Haiti after the August 14 earthquake in the southwest of the country. The earthquake caused the loss of life, displaced thousands of people, destroyed infrastructure and assets, and disrupted the functioning of the market, trade routes and typical livelihood activities. On August 16, the tropical Grace Depression hit the earthquake-affected regions of Haiti. While the storm had no direct impact on household sources of food and income, it slowed relief efforts and destroyed temporary housing for displaced people. Add to this the high food prices and socio-political instability that have already fueled the need for food aid in Haiti. Overall, FEWS NET assumes that the population facing the results of the crisis (IPC Phase 3) by December 2021 has increased by 50 percent compared to before the earthquake, with around 10 percent of the national population now in need of food aid . The greatest demand is concentrated in the Sud department. In order to protect human lives and livelihoods, large-scale humanitarian food aid and livelihood support in the form of seeds and means of production are urgently needed until at least the beginning of 2022.
Figure 1. Location of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, August 14, 2021 In mid-August, southwest Haiti experienced successive tremors Source: OCHA, including a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and a tropical depression. Of the two, the earthquake had the greatest impact on food availability and access to poor households in the South, Grand’Anse and Nippes regions. According to the civil protection office, the earthquake left 2,207 dead and affected more than 137,000 households through the destruction of houses or the loss of a family member. The earthquake also caused local crop damage and disrupted planting for the coming fall season; destroyed stocks and disrupted trade flows, resulting in lower market supply and higher food prices; and stopped many income opportunities.
While most of the spring season’s crops were harvested before the July earthquake, the Department of Agriculture reported that some early-grown autumn fruits in mountain areas – including bananas, yams, cassava, potatoes – were destroyed by landslides. Damage to corn and pea crops is relatively minor, although these losses were likely to have been with poorer farmers who depend on these crops and the associated agricultural labor as their main source of food and money. Further sowing for the autumn season was largely stopped in the affected areas in order to concentrate on earthquake relief and in mountain areas due to the landslide-related soil erosion. In addition, many households lost agricultural tools and seeds in the earthquake, further limiting their ability to participate in the upcoming autumn farming season.
The majority of typical livelihood activities in earthquake areas are disrupted. While reports from key sources suggest that retail trade and charcoal sales have recovered to near normal levels, other income-generating activities, particularly in the transportation and tourism sectors, particularly in the towns of Les Cayes and Jeremie, have been paralyzed. In rural areas, poor households tend to rely on farm labor or the sale of crops as their main source of income at this time of year, and damaged roads and markets limit poor households’ income opportunities. The job opportunities for the autumn season in agriculture are also limited.
Ports and airport infrastructure, including the main port in Port-au-Prince, have not been seriously damaged and imports are likely to continue to meet local food needs. However, several markets suffered significant structural damage, notably Les Cayes, where traders were reportedly forced to sell their products on the street. In addition, road damage, such as the destruction of National Road 7, which connects Jeremie and Les Cayes, disrupts the flow of goods from Grand’Anse to Les Cayes and Port-au-Prince. Overall, some prices – including local red beans and sorghum – rose five to ten percent in August in Cayes and Jeremie compared to July, and imported oil, pasta, and sugar prices rose five to 15 percent, likely associated with severe infrastructure damage. Ground reports suggest that market activity, particularly in Jeremie, is recovering, although ongoing severe damage to road and market infrastructure, subsequent decreased activity, and local production downtime is expected to drive up staple food prices in the weeks that follow Access to food will be hampered by poor households with lower incomes and increased spending on rebuilding their livelihoods.
Humanitarian aid is being distributed in all affected areas to provide short-term access to food. However, the looting of relief supplies along the main roads by communities frustrated by lack of relief continues to delay the delivery of relief supplies to the hardest hit communities of Port-Au-Prince. In the medium to long term, poor households that have been displaced or lost productive livelihoods, as well as urban households in the transport and tourism sectors, will face lower incomes and difficulty in meeting their food needs given the already high prices of staple foods. Overall, FEWS NET assumes that around 10 percent of the population of Haiti are dependent on humanitarian food aid. The communities hardest hit by the resulting food crisis are La Borde, Fonfred, Mercy, Les Cayes, Ile-à-Vache, Maniche, Camp-Perrin, Anse-à-Veau,
Baradères and Petit-Trou de Nippes. In order to protect human lives and livelihoods in earthquake areas, extensive emergency food aid and support for livelihoods, including seeds and means of production, are urgently required until at least the beginning of 2022