Our major concern is rapidly worsening food insecurity. Even before the passage of Sandy, evaluations had revealed that in almost half of the country’s communes, some 2.5 million people were affected by food insecurity. Of these, an estimated 900,000 people were identified as severely food insecure.
Now, with the impact of Sandy, general household food insecurity has increased markedly, while the number of people facing severe food insecurity has jumped to 1.5 million from 900,000. Among those 1.5 million individuals, up to 450,000 adults – predominantly women – and 4,000 children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition, if no immediate remedial actions are taken.
With drought and Tropical Storm Isaac having already reduced harvest prospects significantly, Sandy hit the few remaining productive areas in the country, which had not affected by previous disasters. National estimates for winter harvest yields have dropped dramatically and families face a bleak seven months until the next harvest in June 2013 – and that harvest yield will be poor unless replanting and recovery of agricultural lands can take place over the next few weeks. We have very little time.
Food losses are valued conservatively at $104 million, mostly in the agricultural, fishing and pastoral sectors. With much less locally-produced food available and increased dependency on imported food products, food prices are continuing to rise. Food assistance, cash for work activities and targeted malnutrition prevention initiatives for the most vulnerable are urgently needed.
To exacerbate the situation, WFP and partners have already had to cut back coverage of the national school meals programme because of insufficient funding.
A second area of concern is shelter. The hurricane destroyed at least 6,200 houses, and damaged over 21,400 more. The hurricane also destroyed 5 200 emergency shelters in 88 camps. Out of the estimated 31,300 people who lost their houses, the majority are now living with host families or in improvised accommodations.
Almost 3,000 are still living in community hurricane shelters where they took refuge during or after the storm – and most of them have nowhere to return to, as their houses and land were washed away by the floods. Their situation is dire and likely to strain coping mechanisms in the weeks and months to come. They are in need of urgent basic assistance including non-food items, clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene items.