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Drought, inflation and insecurity increase populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Nord-Ouest

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Haiti
  • April 2023
Drought, inflation and insecurity increase populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Nord-Ouest

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2023
  • Key Messages
    • The impacts of road insecurity on the economy, inflation on household purchasing power, and the prolonged atypical drought on agricultural and livestock production continue to severely limit the livelihoods of poor households, increasing the number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). There has been an increase in cases of begging, theft, and wood sales. An increase in the households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), particularly in the first and second sections of Bombardopolis in Nord-Ouest, is expected during the lean season between April and June.

    • Below-average rainfall between March and April continues to have a negative impact on the spring cropping season and on the physical condition of animals, particularly in Nord-Ouest. Since February, the normalized vegetation index has been gradually diverging from normal, with a larger gap in Nord-Ouest. Farmers are waiting for a minimum of moisture in the soil before sowing, but still cannot do so, despite having prepared the land since the end of February and March. This is happening against a backdrop in which the area of useable agricultural land has fallen considerably compared with the five-year average. The situation improved slightly in the far south, where some rain in mid-April triggered seeding.

    • The scarcity of fuel, the depreciation of the gourde, and the illegal taxes imposed by the gangs continue to increase food prices and reduce access to food for poor and very poor households who depend mainly on the markets. Prices of staple foodstuffs more than doubled in April compared with the five-year average. At the same time, the gourde lost more than 31 percent of its value against the US dollar between April 2022 and April 2023, reaching more than 154 HTG/USD on April 19, 2023.

    • The security situation remains volatile, particularly in Port-au-Prince and the departments of Nord-Ouest and Artibonite. The gangs continue to expand their territory, mainly in the capital, through violence and kidnapping of civilians, which periodically disrupts the functioning of markets and the ability of households to engage in income-generating activities. As a result, the flow of trade between rural markets and those in the capital has fallen considerably, leading to a decline in the availability of products on the markets.

    Current Situation

    Socio-political situation: The socio-political situation continues to deteriorate with an increase in the number of incidents and deaths perpetrated by gangs. According to the Centre d'Analyse et de Recherche des Droits de l'Homme (CARDH), 389 cases of kidnapping were recorded for the first quarter of 2023, an increase of just over 173 percent compared with 2021 and 72 percent compared with 2022. Cité Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets, Port-au-Prince, and Pétion-Ville are still the municipalities most affected by this phenomenon, which is disrupting income-generating activities and trade flows on the major rural and urban markets.

    Fuel scarcity: Riing in insecurity around the main fuel storage terminal in Varreux, Cité Soleil, has led to a reduction in the number of tanker trucks distributing petroleum products in the capital and especially in provincial towns, leading to an irregular supply of fuel and thus increasing the price of fuel. As a result, the illegal sale of fuel at prices higher than those set by the government continues. A gallon of fuel is currently selling for more than 1,500 gourdes on the informal market in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. This situation is exacerbated in other departments, where the product is completely absent, and a gallon of gazoline sells for between 2,500 and 5,000 gourdes.

    Depreciation of the gourde: The gourde continues to depreciate. As at April 19, the exchange rate of the gourde against the US dollar was over 154 gourdes to the dollar, representing a year-on-year depreciation of more than 30 percent.

    Markets and prices: Insecurity in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region and in other areas such as Artibonite and Nord-Ouest (Bassin Bleu and Gros Morne), as well as the scarcity of fuel, have led to an atypical increase in transport costs compared with normal levels. As a result, food prices remain higher than the previous year and the five-year average, in an atypical manner. This situation, combined with the depreciation of gourde, is amplifying food inflation.

    In addition, the price of charcoal has fallen considerably compared with the five-year average. Key informants in Bombardopolis have reported a drop of more than 40 percent in the price of a bag of charcoal, from 700 HTG to 400 HTG between March 2022 and March 2023.

    Rainfall conditions and development of the agricultural season: Low rainfall is having a major impact on the spring farming season, particularly in the Nord-Ouest region, where drought conditions are at their most severe (Figure 1). Farmers have been preparing their land since February and March but are unable to sow it due to insufficient soil moisture.

    According to key informants, the utilized agricultural area (UAA) has been considerably reduced compared with the five-year average. However, there was a slight improvement in the far south, where rains, although below average, triggered seeding of the land in mid-April. A similar situation is developing in Artibonite, following the rainfall recorded over the weekend and at the start of the second dekad of April. Farmers have started planting, although rainfall is still below normal. Overall, the agroclimatic situation remains worrying.

    Figure 1

    Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), anomaly from April 6 to 15, 2023, compared with the average
    HT map

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sources of income: All sources of income for very poor households, whether in rural or urban areas, are below average due to the general drop in economic activity, resulting from the current security crisis and also from the drought, which is paralyzing farming activities. This affects the ability of better-off employers to take on workers. In rural areas, particularly in Bas Nord-Ouest, charcoal production is mainly carried out by the well-off, who employ the poor and very poor as labor. However, the high risk of road insecurity, as well as the high transport costs caused by fuel scarcity and the fact that trucks transporting charcoal have to take longer routes due to insecurity, have limited demand for charcoal.

    This has led to a reduction in the income generated by charcoal production, and therefore limited the ability of the well-off to employ the poor and very poor. Income from fishing is below average. Despite intensified fishing efforts, catches have fallen due to the irrational management and exploitation of coastal resources, resulting in the destruction of fishing habitats. In addition, because of the insecurity, wholesale fishermen and fishing agents are finding it difficult to sell their products on the Gonaïves market, which is important for Bas Nord-Ouest, particularly Baie-de-Henne and Bombardopolis. They are forced to sell them on other local markets at lower prices. As a result, they pass on this loss of income in the prices offered to fishermen, who are forced to sell because they have no means of preserving their already highly perishable catches.

    Malnutrition: National statistics on malnutrition are not yet available, although a SMART nutrition survey is underway. However, an increase in the number of cases of malnutrition compared with last year has been reported in Bas Nord-Ouest, particularly in Bombardopolis. Very poor households show visible signs of malnutrition linked to inadequate food. This situation has been confirmed by the municipal health centres. In addition, the local authorities and other members of the discussion group stated that several cases of famine-related deaths had been recorded.

    Current food security results: High prices, low incomes and drought continue to have a negative impact on household purchasing power and therefore on food security. Livelihoods remain fragile in most areas, and very disrupted in Nord-Ouest HT01 and Cité Soleil in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The majority of the country's areas are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and are adopting crisis strategies such as intensifying the sale of charcoal and animals, and consuming seeds and food of low nutritional value in order to obtain food. In irrigated and semi-humid areas, which are less affected by climatic shocks, households resort to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) strategies such as reducing non-essential expenditure, increasing food purchases on credit, consuming non-preferred food, and reducing adult consumption in favor of children, in order to maintain their current consumption.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions in the February to September 2023 Food Security Outlook report remain unchanged, with the exception of the updated assumptions below:

    • USGS forecasts suggest above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall during the spring season, due to the presence of the El Niño phenomenon.
    • Macroeconomic conditions will remain volatile, characterized by persistently high inflation and the continued depreciation of the Haitian currency. Insecurity and gang violence are likely to continue as gangs extend their control across the country. Violence against civilians, including kidnappings, will lead to an increase in displacement, particularly in Port-au-Prince.

    Projected Outlook through September 2023

    Throughout the outlook period, inflation, along with high transportation cost due to fuel shortages and insecurity, will negatively impact food security in Haiti. These factors will impact local prices, consequently affecting people's access to food. Acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will remain widespread in the country until September. During the agricultural lean season between April and May, when households are heavily dependent on the market as a source of food, an increase in the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected across the country. In addition, in the areas most affected by multiple crises such as drought, insecurity, and poor macroeconomic conditions, an increase in the number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is anticipated, particularly in Nord-Ouest. While July will witness a slight improvement attributed to the spring harvests, marked by a decline in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), the expected below-average harvests will not mitigate food consumption deficits for poor households for more than a month. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will remain widespread in the country. The area of greatest concern remains the commune of Cité de Soleil, which has been hardest hit by gang violence and where an Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are still expected.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Haiti Food Security Outlook Update, April 2023: Drought, inflation and insecurity increase populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Nord-Ouest, 2023. 

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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