WFP and UNICEF Executive Directors visit Haiti to galvanize international support amid record humanitarian needs
Unprecedented hunger and malnutrition threaten lives across the country
NEW YORK (June 20, 2023) – The heads of UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) ended missions to Haiti today, calling for far more support for highly vulnerable children and families who face rampant violence, deadly natural disasters, and a resurgence of cholera.
“Haiti’s hunger crisis is unseen, unheard, and unaddressed. Violence and climate shocks capture the headlines, but we don’t hear as much about the 4.9 million Haitians struggling to eat day-to-day,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “Per capita, the proportion of Haitians facing emergency-level food insecurity is the second highest in the world – we cannot abandon them.”
“Humanitarian needs are even greater today than after the devastating 2010 earthquake, but with far less resources to respond,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “I have seen and heard how Haitian children and families are overcoming insurmountable challenges, and they are not giving up. In the country’s hour of most profound need, neither should the international community.”
Overall, 5.2 million people require urgent humanitarian support, including nearly 3 million children. Some 4.9 million people are struggling to feed themselves, and over 115,000 children below five years old are projected to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition this year, a 30 percent spike since last year. The healthcare system is near collapse, schools have been attacked by armed groups and civilians are being terrorized and deprived of livelihoods. In the capital’s most dangerous neighborhoods, women and children are suffering staggering levels of sexual violence. Deadly floods and an earthquake in June were stark reminders of Haiti’s vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters.
Russell and McCain held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and other government officials and visited a UNICEF and WFP-supported school.
In the city of Jérémie, McCain met farmers and food processors who provide Haitian-grown food for schools and interacted with people who receive monthly cash-based transfers under a social safety net program. She also visited a food preparation center in Port-au-Prince, where WFP and its partner provide hot meals which are transported daily to schools in areas affected by armed violence in Cité Soleil.
Russell, who was recently named Principal Advocate for Haiti for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a collective body of senior humanitarian leaders, visited a site for families displaced from their homes due to the violence, where UNICEF supports a mobile health clinic. She also spoke privately to children and women survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the armed groups, and a nutrition center where severely wasted children receive life-saving therapeutic care with UNICEF support.
Despite the magnitude of needs, only 23 percent of the $720 million required for the 2023 UN response has been funded. WFP needs $330 million to reach its goal of assisting 2.3 million people in 2023, while UNICEF is appealing for $246 million to reach 1.7 million children this year.
Russell and McCain called for timely and flexible funding that can quickly be directed to where needs are the most urgent.
“Haiti will never be at peace when almost half the population is hungry. With peace comes the hope for a good plate of food on the table and a better future,” the WFP Executive Director said. “We cannot wait for Haitians to die from hunger before acting, we need to fund the future of Haiti, today.”
Russell underscored the urgency of a more robust humanitarian response for those in most urgent need, the restoration of basic services and longer-term development solutions. The private and public sectors and International Financial Institutions must step up their support to Haiti with a renewed sense of urgency, she said.
“People in Haiti are in perpetual survival mode, with no safety net whatsoever,” said Russell. “The international community can help put in place the basic requirements Haitian families tell us they need such as health, education, social and protection services. Above all, what they told me is that they desperately need an end to the violence and insecurity.”
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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
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