BOGOTA (AlertNet) - Around 1.5 million Haitians are going hungry because devastating floods caused by Hurricane Sandy washed away food crops and harvests and destroyed swathes of agricultural land, the United Nations said on Monday as it appealed for an additional $39 million to fund emergency aid programmes in Haiti.
The appeal is for funds to provide food to the worst-hit farming and rural communities, particularly in western and southern Haiti, healthcare, drinking water and shelter. It brings the total amount sought to meet Haiti’s humanitarian needs over the next year to just over $151 million, the U.N. said.
“At the moment, one of our biggest worries is in areas that are still isolated after Hurricane Sandy, where women and children face worsening nutrition. At the same time, it is crucial to help Haitian farmers so that they can plant crops for the small December season and for the main agricultural season in the spring,” said Myrta Kaulard, head of the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) in Haiti.
“Without immediate cash contributions, the situation of these rural households will continue deteriorating until the next main crop in mid-2013,” Kaulard added in a statement.
The WFP says it will continue to provide food to 20,000 families in Haiti's worst affected areas, totalling almost 800 tonnes this month, including cereals bought locally from smallholder farmers.
Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti on October 23, killing 54 people and damaging or destroying around 30,000 houses. Some 2,300 Haitians are living in hurricane shelters, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Before Sandy, Haiti was still struggling to rebuild following the massive earthquake that hit the island in January 2010.
“This is a major blow to Haiti’s reconstruction effort, making life for the most vulnerable Haitians even more precarious,” Nigel Fisher, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, said in a statement.
“In the meantime, international partners’ ability to respond has been reduced by dwindling donor support,” added Fisher, who is also the deputy special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Haiti.
A combination of rising food prices, drought in May and July, Hurricane Isaac in August and more recently Sandy, has weakened Haiti’s already fragile food supply and left thousands of families too poor to buy enough food.
The government estimates the agricultural sector has lost a third of its annual output due to these disasters during the last year. It has declared a month-long state of national emergency.
In the aftermath of Sandy, Haitian health authorities have also reported a rise in the number of new cholera cases, with 1,081 new cases reported in the first week after the storm.
The disaster destroyed 61 cholera treatment centers, reducing the government’s already low ability to respond to a spike in the number of new cases, aid agencies say.
Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010 cholera, a water-borne disease, has infected nearly 600,000 people and killed over 7,500 in Haiti, according to government figures.