Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, trying to calm mounting discontent over the hikes, stepped up free food distributions, announced a rice donation from Japan and launched a rice commission to address the growing food security concerns. He also announced the government was considering opening public food stores and food-storage, measures international experts warn have shown to be very inefficient and ineffective in helping consumers.
My concern is what the government will do as the situation does not seem to be as dire as in 2008 in terms of price levels, said Diego Arias Carballo, a senior agricultural economist with the World Bank.
Following the global food price hikes in 2008, Haiti introduced a rice subsidy program, which a World Bank study says benefited importers, and not consumers.
You need to have more of a targeted and efficient way of helping families with these types of crises and shocks, Arias said.
Sandys damage, combined with Isaacs, the rising food costs and a drought that hit the northern regions of the country earlier this year, means up to two million Haitians are now at risk of malnutrition, the UN said Friday at a press briefing in Geneva.
These people will continue to struggle till the next large harvest in mid-2013, said Myrta Kaulard, Haiti director for the UN World Food Program. The struggle will be tough.
Kaulard said what Haiti and humanitarian aid groups need is cash; cash-for-work programs are needed to employ people in affected areas to rehabilitate the land; nutrition programs are needed for pregnant and nursing mothers and children younger than 5 all now even more at risk; and school meals programs need to be maintained.
There are important resource gaps in all these programs, she said, noting that funding shortfalls recently forced WFP to cut a number of schools from its meals program.
Changes in Haitis rain pattern dry spells and floods affected food security in almost every region of the country, according to a complex analysis carried out by the governments food security unit after Isaac.
The effects are obvious along the 150-mile stretch between Port-au-Prince and the far northwest, the most neglected region of the country. Sorghum and corn fields have been abandoned by farmers and left to fallow; sun-burned rice stalks have been ruined by water shortages; and bean production is down everywhere, either because fields got too much water or not enough.
In the southeast, Isaac wiped out banana, breadfruit and coffee crops.
You see us here? Were going to die from hunger, said Lisette Moise, 46, a mother of eight, sitting next to a sun-scorched rice paddy in the Artibonite River Valley, the countrys breadbasket. We cant send our children to school, we cant do anything.
Moise and other rice farmers say this years weather skyrocketed prices.
Even if you could afford to buy the cup of beans, you cant afford the cooking oil, said farmer Odette Casseus, standing nearby. Some days you just feeling like screaming to God, given the devastating state you are in.