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Socio-political instability, inflation and fuel shortages contribute to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity in Cité Soleil

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Socio-political instability, inflation and fuel shortages contribute to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity in Cité Soleil

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • The increasing severity of acute food insecurity in Haiti is fueled by a rise in gang violence, worsening civil unrest, and poor economic conditions. Increased violence has led to significant reductions in fuel, disruptions in market functioning and supply, and fewer household income opportunities, resulting in a significant decrease in food access. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in many parts of Haiti, particularly in the areas most affected by poor agricultural production and market disruption. Additionally, from late 2022 to 2023, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Cité Soleil, the area worst affected by gang violence.

    • Insecurity intensified sharply in Port-au-Prince compared to previous months and spread to other major cities in Haiti. This instability is marked by increased criminal activity, kidnapping for ransom, political violence, and violent demonstrations. Roadblocks have paralyzed economic activities and disrupted public transportation.

    • Gang blockades of the main fuel storage terminal in Varreux, which stores more than 70 percent of Haiti’s total fuel supply, led to extended fuel shortages and a six-fold increase in the price of gasoline in September and October. In October the cost of gasoline reached 4,000 HTG/gallon. The impacts on economic activity and household incomes have been enormous given the existing pressure on households due to food insecurity and inflation. Many businesses and essential services such as banks and hospitals are forced to close and limit their operations. The impact on market supplies has exacerbated the already existing upward trend in staple food prices, ranging from 55 to more than 100 percent above the five-year average.

    • The fall harvest in December, which represents only about 20 percent of annual crop production, will likely temporarily improve food access and availability for rural households. However, below-average rainfall during the fall planting season disrupted crop growth and development in the Nord-Ouest, Nord, and Nord-Est departments, where the next harvest is expected to be below average. In the rest of the country, particularly the southern regions, average to above-average rainfall conditions are conducive to the growth of typical crops for the season. Some southern municipalities, including Plaine des Cayes, Torbeck, Saint-Louis du Sud, Miragoane, and Paillant, will have average fall harvests and a seasonal increase in agricultural labor demand during the winter season, resulting in an improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the harvest period.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Insecurity: The current socio-political situation is at an unprecedented critical level. Increased violence against civilians is primarily due to gang rivalries as they seek to gain control of resources and infrastructures, expand their territory, and stand up to the government and authorities. In efforts to take control of state functions, gang activities continue to disrupt market supply, delay the reopening of schools, limit the operation of hospitals and health centers, and even force foreign embassies to close by suspending consular and other services. As a result, the number of cases of political violence has increased by more than 25 percent, from 867 to 1,087 respectively, from January 2021 to October 2022, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), particularly in Cité Soleil, Martissant, and Croix des Bouquets.

    At the same time, growing insecurity on national roads disrupts public transportation and markets, hindering normal traffic between the capital, Grand Sud, and Grand Nord. In addition to fueling insecurity, the alarming increase in gang violence continues to cause significant population displacement. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between June and August 2022, gang violence and social unrest displaced 96,000 people from various neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, including Croix des Bouquets, Tabarre, Torcel, Pernier, and Laboule, in addition to Cité Soleil, Martissant, and Bas de Delmas. These displaced people are mainly in temporary host sites.

    Economic impacts of insecurity: Since June 2021, which marked the beginning of gang confrontations, blocking the main access roads has prevented gasoline distribution to filling stations. In September and October, gangs are controlling the main petroleum product storage terminal in Varreux, in the commune of Cité Soleil, which holds 70 percent of the country’s total capacity. This situation is creating unprecedented fuel scarcity that is driving oil prices up to 4,000 gourdes per gallon, representing an increase of more than 600 percent from the government-adjusted price of 570 on September 13th.

    The fuel shortage is causing a significant reduction of income-generating activities. Some businesses have been forced to reduce staff, while schools, vocational training centers, and universities remain closed. Public and private transportation has decreased significantly. Additionally, institutions are reducing their regular operating hours, with banks operating three days per week, hospitals limiting their services and staff, and public administration barely operating.

    Insecurity and fuel shortages have greatly reduced the activities and movements of the “Madan Sara,” who play a major role in supplying urban markets with local products. Generally, these traders travel throughout the country to collect, transport, and resell products in urban markets, especially in Port-au-Prince. They are the main intermediary between farmers and wholesalers, retailers, and ultimately consumers.

    The disruption of the main access routes to farming areas and urban markets drastically reduces the flow of products from this group of traders. The increased cost of transportation, insecurity on national roads, and the blocking of major routes such as Martissant (Sud) and Canaan (Nord and Centre) significantly hinder the activities of “Madan Sara” traders who may spend days on the road before reaching any point of sale. More importantly, these traders risk losing everything to armed men and are forced to sell products locally at reduced prices. Decreased “Madan Sara” access causes lower demand and income loss for farmers, who sell 60 percent of their crops to the “Madan Sara.”

    Macroeconomic situation: The last available update on inflation data from the Haitian government dates back to July when annual headline inflation had already reached 30.5 percent (Figure 1), according to the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics (IHSI). Increased transportation and food costs are the main drivers of inflation, such that food and transportation inflation rose from nearly 31 percent in June to nearly 33 percent in July. Although inflation data has not been available since July, the value of the gourde did not recover significantly in August or September (Figure 2) due to high fuel and imported food costs. Basic commodity prices are increasing in proportion to the trend in the depreciation of the national currency against the U.S. dollar. As a result, Haiti continues to have the highest cost of living in Central America and the Caribbean, particularly for food and transportation (Figure 3).

    Additionally, migrant remittances declined over the first seven months of 2022. This is an important source of foreign currency for the national economy that has declined by 8 percent on an annual basis (Figure 4). According to data from the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), the average monthly amount from January to July 2022 is estimated at nearly 264 million USD, compared to 284.4 million USD per month for the same period in 2021.

    According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the new BRH regulations requiring money transfer agencies to pay recipients in the national currency, reduces the value of remittances making them less favorable. Declining remittances from Haitian migrants contribute to a decline in foreign exchange reserves, given that remittances are an important source of foreign currency. Decreased foreign exchange reserves and high import demand contribute to the Haitian currency’s loss in value and inflation rate.

    Markets and prices: Growing insecurity is disrupting the operation and supply of markets throughout the country. Insecurity on major roads is forcing the supply of markets in the country’s interior by sea, particularly for imported products, which increases the cost of transportation.  In September, increased price hikes for commodities, particularly local products, were recorded in several markets following disruptions related to protests reducing the flow of goods across the country. For example, the price of yellow maize increased by about 15 percent in the main markets in Sud and Nord-Ouest and by more than 30 percent in Port-au-Prince, which has been most affected by the socio-political unrest.

    Nationally, the price of local maize grain continues its upward trend, increasing by about 65 percent in September 2022 compared to 2021 and atypically above the five-year average (over 100 percent). Despite relatively stable trends between August and September 2022, black bean prices remain significantly above their five-year averages and last year’s prices, at 109 and 53 percent, respectively. Imported food products such as rice, whose price increased by an average of 6 percent during the same period, remains 92 percent above their five-year average.

    Rainfall conditions and agricultural production: Reduced seed availability, poor agricultural infrastructure, increased fertilizer costs, and below-average rainfall negatively impact the summer and fall seasons. In Nord, Nord-Est, Centre, Ouest, and Artibonite, spring harvests in July were mostly compromised. As a result, seeds became less available and more expensive, affecting the summer and fall seasons, despite average soil moisture conditions.

    In addition to reduced access to agricultural inputs, crops are affected by below-average rainfall. Nord-Ouest was most affected by low rainfall observed over extended periods.

    Decreased water flow has been observed in the Artibonite Valley due to poor agricultural infrastructure conditions (irrigation canals in particular), thus limiting the normal irrigation of arable land.

    Additionally, insecurity and rising fertilizer prices prevent farmers from planting more. Currently, only crops that require less water, such as sweet potatoes and sorghum, are being grown. In upper Artibonite, agricultural activities did not really take place due to prolonged water deficits.

    The rest of the country has average to above-average growing conditions (Figure 5). Above-average conditions, mostly in the southern part of the country, indicate improved crop growth compared to the spring season. These conditions are therefore favorable for ongoing crops and preparations for the winter season in Grand Sud, particularly the Les Cayes plain, Torbeck, and some mountainous areas such as Arniquet and Camperrin.

    Livestock conditions: With the above-average August rains, with increased water availability and fodder, animals’ physical condition is generally normal. Overall, very poor households own very few animals, a few goats, usually from herding, and even fewer large livestock (Haiti Rural Livelihoods Zone Profiles, 2015). However, Newcastle disease and Teschen disease still affect poultry and pigs, respectively, especially in Grand’Anse.

    Sources of income: Income from the sale of agricultural labor is limited due to the low hiring capacity of the better-off, and the residual impacts of various climate, socio-political, and economic shocks reducing their ability to invest. With very little crop produce currently, income from agricultural labor counts for very little. Wood and charcoal sales are near normal, although households must step up their efforts to access progressively scarcer wood resources. Due to socio-political turbulence, armed gang clashes, and declining demand, poor urban households that derive their income from petty trade have below-average incomes. Income from migration to the Dominican Republic, an important source of income for poor households in border areas, remains below average due to migration control measures and increasingly reduced employment opportunities for Haitians in neighboring territories.

    Cholera resurgence: Since the confirmation of the first case of cholera on October 2, this disease has spread rapidly. As of October 22, 2,243 suspected cases, 219 confirmed cases, and at least 55 deaths have been recorded (Ministry of Public Health and Population [MPHP], 2022), particularly in the Ouest department. However, according to the Pan American Health Organization, the actual number of cases is likely much higher, as gang violence limits access to affected areas.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In Cité Soleil, one of the neighborhoods most affected by gang violence, market supply is irregular and humanitarian access is limited. Key income-generating activities for very poor households, including petty trade and casual labor, remain severely disrupted due to reduced mobility and limited economic activity in the area. Available evidence collected by the National Coordination of Food Security (CNSA) and its partners in August 2022 indicates that a growing percentage of the population is resorting to begging and sending their children elsewhere to eat to reduce consumption gaps. Despite liquidating their assets, poor households have consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. Sustained food consumption gaps will lead to high levels of acute malnutrition in Cité Soleil. In the rest of Port-au-Prince, access to markets remains disrupted by the widespread impacts of insecurity and increased commodity price hikes. However, poor households in other areas of Port-au-Prince that are still able to engage in income-generating activities, although below average, are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    For the rest of the country, declining harvests and low household incomes have caused decreased food availability and accessibility compared to the previous year, particularly in Nord-Ouest, Nord-Est, and Centre. The ongoing socio-political crisis, civil insecurity jeopardizing the country’s economic stability, and inflation above 30 percent are among the factors aggravating the food insecurity situation for poor and very poor households throughout the country.

    Poor and very poor households that typically depend on crop sales are likely to increase the consumption of their own production to make up for deficits linked to decreased purchasing power. To reduce consumption deficits, however, poor rural households sell productive assets, reduce spending on health and education, and consume seed stocks. This situation is particularly evident in Nord HT03, Artibonite HT03, Grand’Anse HT08 and HT07, Nippes HT01 and HT07, and Sud and Sud-Est HT07, which have been strongly impacted by climate shocks and depend on Port-au-Prince for their market supply. Based on these findings, most of the country is experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following key assumptions about the changing national situation:

    Socio-political situation:

    • Civil unrest is very likely to increase during the outlook period. Renewed protests are very likely as the potential agreement with the IMF moves forward, requiring a fiscal adjustment and lifting of fuel subsidies.

    Gang violence:

    • Episodes of violence will intensify throughout the scenario period, despite recent sanctions imposed by international stakeholders. Future clashes are expected in gang-contested areas such as Bas Artibonite, Martissant, Delmas, Croix des Bouquets, Pernier, and some communes in Bas Nord-Ouest and Cap Haïtien.

    Agroclimatology:

    • According to forecasts issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), average rainfall and temperatures are expected during the second season (August to December 2022), with above-average rainfall toward the end of the season. These conditions will remain the same during the second outlook period (February to May 2023).
    • Based on forecasts from many institutions, above-average cyclone activity is still expected through the end of the season in November 2022.

    Agricultural production:

    • Harvests will be below average for the fall 2022 and winter 2022-2023 growing seasons, despite favorable weather forecasts. Losses in the spring 2022 harvest will limit the availability of seeds and income to launch the abovementioned growing seasons. FEWS NET estimates that the 2022/2023 production year will see declines of about 6.5 percent compared to last year’s fall season.
    • The start of the spring 2023 growing season in March may also be affected by this situation, limiting the planted area and likely labor absorption. However, overall production for this period would be near average, especially for cereals.

    Macroeconomic situation:

    • Transportation prices will remain at current levels throughout the period, as the government does not intend to reverse the pump price adjustments announced in September.
    • High international food prices could continue to fuel inflationary pressures in Haiti through imported products.
    • The decline in net official foreign exchange reserves will continue. As a result, the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) will not be able to continue intervening in the foreign exchange market to stabilize the gourde.
    • The depreciation of the gourde/dollar exchange rate will continue due to political unrest, the confluence of fuel and basic food price increases, restrictions on international transfers in USD, and pressure for the 2023 national elections, among other reasons.

    Markets and prices:

    • Market supply, particularly in the capital, is expected to remain disrupted due to cuts caused by armed gang control in Port-au-Prince, which will restrict the movement of goods in other provincial cities, particularly in Grand Sud, Grand Nord, and Centre.
    • Prices of imported staple foods will continue to rise above those of 2021/22 and the five-year average due to the depreciation of the gourde against the dollar and the Dominican peso.
    • Prices for local products will usually follow their seasonal trend but will remain above average. The fall and winter harvests will not increase food availability, being below normal. The winter (November/December) and spring (February to April) planting seasons will further limit the availability of local food. Thus, there will be a seasonal decrease in food availability, leading to price increases for these products.

    Sources of income:

    • Demand for agricultural labor will be below average, given poor crop performance, high input costs, and farmers’ low financial capacity. Income from the sale of fall and winter crops will be below average due to these same factors.
    • Charcoal sales and petty trade will generate average income in rural areas. However, access to these activities will not be the case for urban areas, particularly the Haitian capital, which is plagued by instability, civil insecurity, and considerable disruptions of market operations and informal activities.
    • Income from migration to the Dominican Republic will continue to be below normal due to the increasingly reduced employment opportunities for Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

    Humanitarian assistance:

    • Although food assistance is expected during 2023, FEWS NET has yet to have monthly plans on the number of recipients or the size of the rations. Based on historical trends in the delivery of assistance, its magnitude in terms of population covered and needs will not significantly reduce food insecurity. The analysis has therefore been conducted without food assistance.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, income-generating activities will be disrupted due to socio-political unrest and insecurity. Armed confrontations will disrupt market supply and access, hinder the distribution of humanitarian assistance, and cause population displacement. Poorer households, subsisting mainly from informal petty trade and casual labor, will lose access to these typical sources of income while facing significantly higher prices for staple foods. Even if household members liquidate their productive assets and engage in negative strategies such as begging, poor households will have significant consumption deficits in inaccessible areas, including Cité Soleil, which will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) until May 2023. However, poor households in other areas of Port-au-Prince, able to engage in some income-generating activities, although below average, are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Between October 2022 and January 2023, which coincides with the fall harvest, the start of the winter season, and year-end festivities, harvest performance is expected to be below normal. Area planted by farmers is limited due to their capacity to invest in inputs. Local household food availability will be even lower, and households will still have to rely on the market for food purchases. Prices of local food products including maize, beans, and other seasonal products (breadfruit, roots and tubers, and vegetables) will increase, especially during the year-end holiday season. Additionally, prices will remain well above last year and atypically above the five-year average.

    Although weather forecasts are favorable for the development of fall crops and the launch of the winter season in November and December, the constraints and poor performance of the previous season will affect labor demand. As a result, labor will remain below average, resulting in below-average income.

    Harvests will be insufficient for most poor and very poor households to meet their basic food requirements. The expected agricultural production and income declines will reduce food access for the poorest households. At the same time, increased staple food prices due to the current crisis reduce households’ purchasing power. As their assets decline, these households will be forced to resort to food restriction strategies, including reducing the number of daily meals and the quantity and quality of food consumed (e.g., consuming seeds or early crops). Households will therefore face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    However, some communes in Grand Sud, such as Plaine des Cayes, Torbeck, Saint-Louis du Sud, Miragoane, and Paillant, are likely to enjoy fall harvests that will be near average. Additionally, the start of the winter season may result in a renewed demand for workers, which could generate income (although still below average) for the poorest households. However, poor households in these areas will not be able to fully meet their non-food needs and will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity.

    Between February and May 2023, the dominant activity will be winter crops, which will peak in February in the irrigated plains and humid mountains. Beans, roots and tubers, and bananas will be harvested for sale at markets. In addition, harvest time for seasonal crops such as pigeon peas, lima beans, cowpeas, and vegetable gardens will also occur. However, household supply to markets will remain predominant, contributing little to national agricultural production. These harvests will therefore be quickly exhausted, making it impossible to build adequate reserves for the lean season.

    Secondly, farmers will start preparations for the spring 2023 season in March. It should be noted that the spring season will begin with soil preparation and sowing activities in February in Sud and Grand’Anse. Activities in other regions will begin in March, except for Plateau Central, which will start its season in April. Income from the sale of agricultural labor and other sources will likely be close to average. Nevertheless, the seasonal price increases and the resulting declining income and purchasing power will lead to the deterioration of food access for poor and very poor households. As before, these households will continue to resort to crisis strategies to meet their food needs and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events in the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario.

    Area

    Event

    Impact on Food Security Conditions

    National

    Easing of socio-political unrest/military intervention

    The decrease in violence would lead to improved functioning of the economy and markets, including a rapid recovery of formal and informal activities. This would lead to an increase in food availability and access, resulting in a decrease in the number of households adopting negative strategies. As a result, fewer areas and households would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In Cité Soleil, the situation would likely improve from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

     

    Continued fuel scarcity

    If fuel scarcity continues in the market, many businesses including hospitals will close and the rising cost of transportation will intensify inflation. As a result, more households and areas could face food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or worse).

    Production Areas

    A prolonged dry spell

    Water deficits affecting seasonal crops would significantly reduce fodder and water availability for livestock, and delay the start of the spring 2023 season. This would also negatively impact poorer households’ livelihoods and demand for agricultural labor, and would likely result in an increase in the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

     

    Figures

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1.

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: L'Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d'Informatique (IHSI)

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: BRH

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: L'Institut Haïtien de Statistique et d'Informatique (IHSI)

    Figure 5

    Figure 4.

    Source: BRH, octobre 2022

    Figure 6

    Figure 5.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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