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Haiti faces a 'major food crisis', its interim president says

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image copyrightReuters
image captionMr Privert (in stripy shirt) toured some of the areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew

The international community is falling short in its commitment to Haiti's recovery, the country's interim President Jocelerme Privert says.

Jocelerme Privert told the BBC that devastating losses from last month's Hurricane Matthew were equal to the country's entire national budget.

Mr Privert said Haiti was facing a "major food crisis" and worsening levels of malnutrition.

He urged governments around the world to do more to help.

media captionInterim President of Haiti, Jocelerme Privert, says the country faces a "major food crisis"

Crisis in the offing

Hurricane Matthew ripped through Haiti on 4 October.

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The Category 4 storm, the strongest to hit the Caribbean in a decade, devastated large parts of the country and affected 2.1 million people.

The Haitian government estimates 1.5 million people are in need of immediate assistance, including more than 140,000 people who are living in temporary shelters.

image copyrightAFP
image captionTens of thousands of people are living in shelters after the hurricane destroyed their homes

Speaking from his home in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Mr Privert said that he "didn't want to see Haitian people die because of the unavailability of international assistance".

The president warned that without immediate financial support to replant crops destroyed by Hurricane Matthew, Haiti's situation could worsen further.

image copyrightAFP
image captionHurricane Matthew felled trees and destroyed crops

"If we don't manage to re-launch agriculture then in three to four months we'll find ourselves with a major food crisis," he told the BBC.

"Our projection is that we need between $25m (£20m) and $30m to resolve the farming issue. Right now we have $2.5m."

Non-profit relief organisation J/P HRO, which has been delivering aid to the people of Haiti since 2010, says there could be a serious crisis in the offing.

"What we're seeing is a lot of hunger. Haiti has experienced three years of drought before the hurricane so there were already high levels of malnutrition.

"Now tens of thousands of acres of crop land and millions of fruit trees have been destroyed," J/P HRO's chief executive Ann Lee said.

Slow in coming forward

Within a week of Hurricane Matthew hitting Haiti, the United Nations launched a flash appeal to raise $120m.

More than a month on, 38% has been raised, with the United States pledging the lion share.

The UK has committed £8m ($10m) to helping Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, of which £1.3m have so far been paid to the UN appeal.

A spokesperson for the UK government said that "Britain has played its part in assisting those in immediate need" by providing water, shelter, sanitation and protection.

But according to Ms Lee, some of the more remote communities have not been reached at all.

"There is gratitude because we bring some assistance to them but there's also a lot of despair, everyone is suffering," she says.

Mr Privert insists more needs to be done: "The international community has expressed deep sympathy for the Haitian people and heads of state have contacted us, heads of government have provided some support both moral and material, but it is not enough."

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