Publication Date: 2024/03/26

Deadly malnutrition in the country amplified by escalating insecurity, blocked roads, and a crumbling health system pushing children to ‘the brink’, UNICEF warns

PORT AU PRINCE/NEW YORK, 26 March 2024 - The alarming surge in armed violence in areas of Haiti are creating heightened risk of furthering a malnutrition crisis in the country, UNICEF warned today. 

The recent findings from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis indicate an alarming 19 per cent increase in the number of children estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Haiti this year. In addition, and as evidenced by the latest IPC analysis, 1.64 million people are facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity, (IPC Phase 4), which increases the risk of child wasting and malnutrition, especially in 8 areas of the country.  

The ongoing armed violence across Artibonite department and the West department, which encompasses Port au Prince, has restricted aid delivery and crumbled an already fragile healthcare system, posing an imminent threat to the lives of over 125,000 children at risk of SAM.

“The violence and instability in Haiti have consequences far beyond the risk of the violence itself. The situation is creating a child health and nutrition crisis that could cost the lives of countless of children,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “Thousands of children are on the brink, while life-saving supplies are ready to be delivered if violence stops and roads and hospitals are opened. This malnutrition crisis is entirely human made. Basic security is urgently needed for the people of Haiti, for the life-saving services they rely on, and for humanitarian workers to reach children and families in desperate need.”

Since January, the deteriorating security situation in Haiti has continued to worsen the humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for UNICEF’s ability to store, deliver and restock desperately needed assistance. 

Earlier this month, one of UNICEF's 17 containers was looted at Port-au-Prince's main port. The looted container held essential items for maternal, neonatal, and child survival, including resuscitators and related equipment. The ongoing insecurity has also left just two in five hospitals operational across the country. Meanwhile, only one in four health facilities are functioning in the Artibonite department, the nation’s main rice-growing region.

At the same time, the current insecurity in Port-au-Prince has made it virtually impossible for health and nutrition supplies to reach at least 58,000 children suffering from severe wasting in the metropolitan area. The Martissant road, the only humanitarian corridor from Port-au-Prince to the southern regions, remains blocked, leaving an estimated 15,000 children suffering from malnutrition at the brink of disaster. 

And the insecurity plaguing much of Haiti’s capital is hampering the transport and resupply of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), used to treat children suffering from SAM, which could lead to supply chain disruptions and have serious consequences if the situation remains unchanged. 

Despite the highly volatile environment, UNICEF is stepping up efforts to protect families and provide life-saving support, including for those who are trapped and cut off from essential services. Together with the Government and partners, UNICEF is helping to sustain national, regional, and – in the most insecure areas – neighborhood systems and services that protect children and families. 

UNICEF is calling for:

  • Accelerated efforts by the international community to protect civilians, restore law and order in the streets, and ensure safe movement of humanitarian workers and life-saving supplies, including RUTF;

  • Increased immediate, flexible funding to meet the needs of the most vulnerable as the situation evolves, ensuring aid reaches affected populations as quickly as possible;

  • And the protection of schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure children rely on, and for the safeguarding of humanitarian spaces.


Note for editors:

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is an innovative multi-stakeholder global initiative aimed at enhancing food security and nutrition analysis. The IPC is the result and the function of a partnership which exists at global, regional and national levels. It is is thus founded on a strong governance structure that brings together governments, regional bodies and international agencies – and fosters rigorous processes, ownership and consensus-driven outcomes.

Using the IPC classification and analytical approach – governments, UN agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders work together to determine the severity and extent of acute and chronic food insecurity and acute malnutrition situations within countries, according to internationally recognized standards. 

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UNICEF is the world’s leading humanitarian organization focused on children. We work in the most challenging areas to provide protection, healthcare and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition. As part of the United Nations, our unrivaled reach spans more than 190 countries and territories, ensuring we are on the ground to help the most disadvantaged children. While part of the UN system, UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations to finance our life-saving work. Please visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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