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Haiti: Violence, Food Shortages, Disaster Put Lives at Risk

Older people particularly at risk when food, healthcare, shelter are scarce

(August 11, 2022, Washington, DC) The lives of thousands of older people are in peril due to acute food shortages in Haiti’s southern peninsula, HelpAge USA and Foundation Nouvelle Grand’Anse said today. Gang violence in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, has cut off supplies to areas hardest hit by the August 2021 earthquake. The violence has also forced many Haitians to flee to the south, further taxing scarce resources in those communities, the organizations said.

“Haiti’s multiple crises have meant devastation for millions of older people who are already among the country’s most vulnerable,” said Cindy Cox-Roman, CEO of HelpAge USA. “Older people’s rights and survival are on the brink in Haiti. Any humanitarian response needs to include them fully.”

A new report by HelpAge and Foundation Nouvelle Grand’Anse found that older people in the southern peninsula face startling levels of food insecurity and hunger. 94% reported that they cannot access enough food because it has become too expensive and almost 50% said food is so scarce, they eat only one meal a day.

The report is based on interviews with over 350 older people over 60 in the Grand’Anse, Sud, and Nippes departments of Haiti in April 2022.  

Many older people are not just fending for themselves. Nearly two-thirds of those interviewed care for children, often multiple children, placing additional strain on them to secure basic necessities for survival. One-third care for another older person or someone with a disability. Many have disabilities themselves.

The overwhelming majority of older people interviewed in Nippes and Sud said they could not access health services, due to costs and their distance from existing services. Older people interviewed said they feared neglect and did not feel safe in their communities. Most live in houses still not fully repaired since the earthquake. 

The humanitarian response has been limited in Haiti due to political instability and other factors. What services have existed, however, often do not reach older people. Two thirds (66%) of older people across the three departments reported that they did not feel included in the earthquake emergency response. This was particularly acute in Grand’Anse, with 77% reporting feeling excluded. Most did not know if services were even still ongoing or not, suggesting either a lack of information accessible for older people or their complete exclusion from services.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southern peninsula of Haiti on August 14, 2021. Violence by gangs and armed groups that have rocked the capital, Port-Au-Prince, for the last few years have also led to a complete blockage of the road leading from the capital to the southern peninsula, since May 2021. According to the International Organization for Migration, thousands have fled violence to other areas, including the southern peninsula. The latest data from Haiti’s Institute for Statistics and Information reports that national inflation has reached 29%.

“Despite bearing the brunt of so many hardships, older people in Haiti have been largely excluded from humanitarian services,” said Blanchard Louis of Foundation Nouvelle de Grand’Anse. “The best way to make sure older people are included in services is to engage with them from the outset to understand what they need and how to break down the barriers to getting essentials.”

In its report, HelpAge and Foundation Nouvelle de Grand’Anse call on Haiti’s humanitarian partners to reach older people in their communities with life-saving support and promote income and livelihood generating activities. All service providers should actively consult older people, including those with disabilities on their priority needs and preferences, service gaps and whether available services are safe and accessible.

HelpAge USA advances the wellbeing and inclusion of older people around the world. We work in the U.S. and with HelpAge Global Network partners in 86 countries to ensure that the contributions of all older people are recognized, and they have the right to a healthy, safe, and secure life. We have been working in Haiti since November 2021.  

Foundation Nouvelle Grand’Anse (FNGA) is a Haitian organization based in Jeremie, Grand Anse with more than 25 years of experience providing humanitarian assistance, sustainable development, education, and informal training to communities.

The report is made possible by support from the AARP Foundation.

Contacts:
In Washington, DC, contact for HelpAge USA:
Cindy Cox-Roman (English), ccoxroman@helpageusa.org
Tel: +1 202-709-8442

In Grand’Anse, Haiti, contact for FNGA:
Blanchard Louis (Haitian Creole, Spanish, French), coord.actfga@gmail.com
Tel: +509 3639 2188

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