For the first time since four back-to-back storms and hurricanes battered Haiti five years ago, the U.N.’s lead feeding program and other agencies don’t have enough food to stockpile in strategic areas before a major storm hits.
In some of the most remote corners of the country, people are dying needlessly of cholera because treatment centers have been abandoned, aid groups have disappeared and community health aides tasked with helping prevent the deadly waterborne-disease haven’t been paid in months.
And in hundreds of post-earthquake camps, Haitians hoping to trade in their 3-year-old tarps for a roof over their heads soon could have their hopes dashed as international aid workers are laid off and money for rental subsidies dries up.
A lack of donor response to Haiti’s ongoing humanitarian crisis is crippling everything from hurricane preparedness to cholera treatment programs to camp relocation efforts, and putting at risk the humanitarian gains made in recent years, the heads of U.N. humanitarian agencies say.
This worrying reality comes as 320,050 Haitians displaced by the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake remain in tent cities and at a time when more Haitians are at risk of hunger and malnutrition because of a disappointing winter harvest coupled with the ongoing impact of last year’s tropical storms and drought.
“The situation is quite deplorable and that is mostly due to a lack of funding,” said Oliver Schulz, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti. “Three years after the earthquake, the situation should be better, not worse.”
Last month, the French-based medical group, which is independently funded, sounded the alarm. It said that cholera-related deaths were four times the acceptable rate and evaluations of public health facilities in four Haiti departments — Artibonite, Nippes, Southeast and North — showed that the quality of cholera treatment had declined significantly due to a shortage of funds.
With May traditionally one of the wettest months, greater outbreaks of the deadly disease are likely, the group warned. Already, cholera has killed more than 8,000 Haitians and sickened more than 653,000.
“More and more organizations have left and this is causing us problems,” Schulz said referring to the nongovernmental organizations or NGOs that flooded Haiti in the wake of the quake.
Just as pressing as the cholera threat in a country that lacks proper sanitation and drinking water is food security. After last year’s weather-related disasters, malnutrition rates are increasing and food shortages are affecting seven out of 10 departments in the country, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this month.
Aid appeals by the U.N. and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe have gone largely unanswered. For some donors, the lack of response is due to the increasing pressure of other humanitarian emergencies around the globe. Others are concerned about the Haitian government’s ability to effectively use the funds.
“The situation is bad,” said Gary Mathieu, head of Haiti’s National Food Security Coordination unit.
Mathieu said that last year Hurricane Isaac and Sandy, which just brushed Haiti, caused $250 million in losses in the agriculture sector and left 1.5 million Haitians without enough food to eat.