Jamaica Observer- KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says there is need for urgent action to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Haiti.
“Almost half of the country, 5.2 million persons, are facing acute hunger, a number that has regrettably grown since the start of the year. It is also deeply alarming that the children of Haiti, the future of the country, are being disproportionately affected, as they face a high risk of malnutrition, underdevelopment, illness and death,” Holness said.
The prime minister was speaking virtually at a special meeting in support of Haiti, held at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York on Friday.
Nearly half of the population in Haiti does not have enough to eat. In rural areas, 76 per cent of people are affected by food insecurity.
Holness said the humanitarian crisis is compounded by increasing violence and insecurity, forcing many to flee their homes or leave the country, often under unsafe conditions.
“Health and sanitation have been greatly compromised and education seriously disrupted. The need for action is urgent and compelling and requires concerted attention,” he stated.
The prime minister noted that the multifaceted Haitian crisis requires a multi-pronged, multinational response “and we need to work on all fronts at the same time”.
He said that while the political challenges require attention, much more urgent is addressing the immediate needs of the population.
“It is of serious concern that humanitarian agencies… have been prevented from clearing shipments and delivering well-needed assistance. The resulting vulnerability and weakened resilience have contributed to conditions for ongoing crime. We must break this vicious cycle,” Holness said.
The prime minister said that Jamaica recognises the importance of collaboration between Haiti and the international community in addressing food insecurity.
He said that innovative approaches, including a humanitarian corridor supported by international partners, will assist in unblocking the supply chain and facilitating imports and distribution.
“Support for the overwhelmed Haitian police is, therefore, urgently required so they can assist with the dispensing of goods into and through the ports to communities. Beyond these immediate concerns, we also need to support the development of sustainable solutions for homegrown food production and agro processing,” Holness said.
He noted, further, that capacity-building initiatives can focus on strengthening local institutions, farmers cooperatives and extension services to ensure the transfer of knowledge and skills.
He said that farmers will also need assistance in the event of natural disasters.
“School-feeding programmes using locally sourced inputs and assisted by relevant international agencies could stimulate the local economy and provide alternative avenues for growth. This could also deter those attracted to crime and violence,” Holness pointed out.
“We, therefore, need to empower local communities and enhance their capacity to address food-security challenges. In these efforts, donor countries, UN systems, international financial institutions, and other multinational organisations, as well as civil society, have a vital role to play,” he added.
The prime minister said that Jamaica welcomes the many commitments of support to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan 2023 and the funds that have been made available for urgent responses.
Launched in April 2023, the response plan calls for an unprecedented $719 million, almost double from 2022. To date, the plan is only 20 per cent funded.