In Haiti, armed violence has contributed to increasing the number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (also called severe wasting). The country has recorded a 30% increase in cases compared to 2022, warns UNICEF today.
A standardized monitoring and evaluation survey of relief and transition conducted this year in the area of nutrition indicates that child malnutrition is on the rise in this Caribbean island plagued by violence, worsening insecurity food and an outbreak of cholera. More than 115,600 children could suffer from severe wasting in 2023, compared to 87,500 last year.
In several towns in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince, ravaged by armed violence for more than two years, one child in five currently has some form of malnutrition. It is in the capital that children pay the heaviest price, with many municipalities showing high or even very high rates of severe wasting. The West department, the area most affected by the conflict, has an acute malnutrition rate of 7.5%, two percentage points higher than the national average.
“In Haiti, more and more parents are no longer able to feed their children properly and provide them with the appropriate care, and the terrible escalation of violence perpetrated by armed groups prevents them from going to health centers”, declared Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “The current cholera epidemic further complicates this situation. Indeed, an increasing number of children reach the stage of severe wasting more quickly and will die if no action is taken urgently. »
The violence in Haiti is escalating at a worrying rate. More than 600 people were killed in Port-au-Prince in April alone, according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). This conflict between armed groups has restricted children’s access to essential nutrition, health and drinking water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) services. Combined with worsening food insecurity and civil unrest, these clashes have resulted in a significant deterioration of the nutritional situation across the country.
This malnutrition crisis is further aggravated by the ongoing cholera epidemic, which particularly affects children suffering from severe wasting. More than 41,000 suspected cases of cholera have been identified in Haiti, 46% of them in children under the age of 14. As disease ravages neighborhoods plagued by violence, cholera and malnutrition add a double burden that the national health system is unable to cope with due to severe staff shortages and a lack of of supplies.
Nearly one in four children in Haiti also suffers from chronic malnutrition (or stunting), a pathology that leaves long-term sequelae. Indeed, poor health and malnutrition prevent stunted children from fully developing their physical and cognitive abilities.
Without the urgent and large-scale deployment of child nutrition and survival interventions aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with severe wasting, as well as preventing the onset of new cases malnutrition, the situation is likely to deteriorate further by October 2023.
UNICEF urgently needs US$17 million to fund the early stages of the response. These funds will be used to scale up early detection of childhood wasting, purchase an additional 84,000 cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic foods, and implement a full range of nutrition, health, WASH, early childhood development and child protection to meet the urgent needs of children in Haiti. A funding shortfall could jeopardize the immediate survival of more than 100,000 children.
Armed violence that forces women and children from their homes leaves Haiti in dire humanitarian need, while funding continues to dwindle.
In order to be able to provide, in 2023, vital goods and services to children and vulnerable populations struggling with insecurity and the health, social and economic crises raging in Haiti, it is essential that UNICEF perceives in due time the US$210.3 million Called for funds. A sum which, to date, has only been financed up to 15%. Credit: UNICEF