Droughts and political, social and economic crises threaten access to food for millions of Latin Americans in Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua

Urgent action needed to prevent hunger for millions in Latin America

UN Photo/Sophia Paris - WFP distributes rice in Haiti

A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) highlights the need for action in five "hotspots" in Latin America and the Caribbean, where millions of people are at risk of hunger.

According to the quarterly Hunger Hotspots report, in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are facing difficulties due to a possible reduction in their harvests and the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colombia is being affected by social unrest and an economic recession, while Haiti has been hit by economic crisis, drought, socio-political unrest and increased crime-related insecurity.

Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua

The food security situation in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua is expected to continue to worsen, especially in the Dry Corridor, due to below-average rainfall that could affect crops, and the socio-economic effects of COVID-19.

Food shortages could affect 3.5 million people in Guatemala and 3.3 million in Honduras, while in Nicaragua around 300,000 people have insufficient food consumption and their situation is likely to worsen in the coming months.

The report suggests proactive actions to mitigate rainfall deficits during the agricultural season, and calls for support for the most vulnerable farmers and livestock keepers, including the distribution of inputs and tools for the cultivation of short-cycle varieties, backyard gardens and animal health support to reduce drought-induced mortality and morbidity.

It also advises countries to provide emergency response and livelihood recovery support to hurricane-affected small-scale farmers and fisherfolk in the most impacted areas of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Colombia

The report highlights social instability and economic crisis as key factors in the food insecurity affecting Colombia and Venezuelan migrants in that country. The wave of protests could have an impact on the food insecurity situation, despite favourable production prospects for the 2021 harvest season.

According to the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview, there are 3.5 million people with highly irregular access to food in Colombia, and 73 per cent of the 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the country were on the brink of hunger in 2020.

The report by the two UN agencies suggests proactive actions to address this crisis, such as distributing cash to the most vulnerable people in rural and urban areas to mitigate the impact of expected increases in food prices.

To this end, $34.6 million is needed to ensure access to food, nutrition and livelihoods to support Venezuelan migrants and host communities in rural border areas through the rehabilitation of water systems, rapid food and fodder production, and emergency food deliveries.

PMA/Mathias Roed El PMA distribuye canastas con comida entre las poblaciones vulnerables en Colombia.
Haiti

The combination of macroeconomic instability with the impact of dry conditions in the main agricultural season, coupled with the worsening security situation amid the political crisis, is likely to lead to a deterioration in Haiti's already high levels of food deprivation.

An estimated 4.4 million people faced acute food insecurity between March and June 2021, an increase of 6 percentage points compared to the same period last year.

The report calls for preventive actions, such as distributing seeds of early-maturing and drought-tolerant crop varieties to vulnerable households with access to land to quickly revive production in drought-affected areas; drilling boreholes; and distributing fodder, feed, nutrient supplements, water harvesting tanks and small livestock to livestock keepers.

US$ 156 million is needed to improve the food situation and livelihoods, and a further US$ 5.2 million for nutrition interventions and support to production networks through unconditional cash transfers, which should be accompanied by necessary inputs and tools for vulnerable households.