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Hunger woes increase in Haiti after Sandy


Nearly 70% of the more than 1,000 households interviewed said they experienced moderate or severe hunger
Nearly 70% of the more than 1,000 households interviewed said they experienced moderate or severe hunger

Staff writers

December 8, 2012 — Haitians have suffered widespread hunger following an unusually active storm season this year and are likely to experience more, according to a study released Friday.

As much as 90% of Haiti's harvest season was destroyed in Sandy's floods
As much as 90% of Haiti's harvest season was destroyed in Sandy's floods

The study underscores the widespread hunger problems facing storm-torn Haiti.

The report, backed by a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-based think-tank, found that rural households in the heavily hit areas of Haiti's west, north and Grand-Anse departments experienced what it termed "severe food shortages'' after Hurricane Sandy and an unnamed storm that followed. 

The two merely brushed the Caribbean nation in October and November but caused major flooding and killed as many as 66 people.

Nearly 70 per cent of the more than 1,000 households interviewed said they experienced moderate or severe hunger, according to the study, "After the Storm: Haiti's Coming Food Crisis.''

The report was written by social scientists Athena Kolbe, Marie Puccio and Robert Muggah, who frequently work in the impoverished country. It echoes U.N. warnings that more than 1.5 million of Haiti's people are at risk of malnutrition because they lost crops in the storms.

As much as 90 per cent of Haiti's harvest season, much of it in the south, was destroyed in Sandy's floods, the World Body said.

"We look at all these things and expect to see there's going to be food insecurity in six months,'' said Kolbe, a doctoral candidate in social work and political science at University of Michigan. "There are going to be a lot of areas where there is not a lot food and we know what happens when there's not a lot of food. It's pretty bleak.'' added Kolbe.

Kolbe and humanitarian workers fear Haiti could see a repeat of what happened in 2008. That year, a jump in food prices triggered more than a week of deadly rioting that ended in the ouster of the prime minister and his Cabinet.

In recent months, anti-government demonstrations have taken place in the capital and countryside. The protesters have aired grievances
that range from alleged corruption in the administration of President Michel Martelly to a rising cost of living.

Backed by the Brazilian non-profit think-tank, the Igarape Institute, the study drew on data from 1,355 households, with a response rate of 84.7 per cent. 

The surveys were done immediately after Hurricane Sandy and the unnamed storm that followed.

Those interviewed reported a wide range of damages and losses.


Haiti experienced an unusually active storm season this year, according to study
Haiti experienced an unusually active storm season this year, according to study

Farmers lost plenty, with 68.3 per cent reporting their crops destroyed, 77.3 per cent losing seeds and 73 per cent the loss of farming equipment and tools.

Such damage will force Haiti to import food from outside, which is often expensive, the study's authors noted.

Help from family and friends abroad who wired money stemmed the spread of additional hunger, the report said. Households that received overseas remittances in the last 12 months were 8.1 times less likely to go hungry after the storm, it added.

Crops such as sorghum, millet and cassava plants were the most likely crops to survive the storm, farmers said. But crops that are fragile were partially or completely destroyed, including beans, peas, carrots and beets.

The study also said people in the countryside reported a "complete absence'' of municipal services during the week after the hurricane. That meant no debris removal or contact with police and other government employee.


With files from The Associated Press

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