Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are prevalent across the Central American and Caribbean region, primarily driven by hurricanes Eta and Iota, irregular rainfall, macroeconomic challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In Central America, the worst-affected areas include northern and eastern Guatemala, northeastern Nicaragua, and northern Honduras. In Haiti, the worst-affected areas include rural areas affected by insufficient rainfall and rural and urban areas with chronically high poverty rates and poor market access.
In Central America, food availability and access have declined due to the impacts of hurricanes Eta and Iota and the longer-term effects of previous drought and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many rural households lost their food stocks and postrera crops due to associated floods. They are also experiencing a decline in annual income due to the losses of cash crops and other household assets. Further, damage to essential infrastructure is impeding livelihood activities. FEWS NET anticipates an early start of the lean season in January/February, which will likely last until the primera harvest in September. In urban areas, poor households face difficulty earning enough income to purchase their minimum food needs.
The population in need of humanitarian food assistance in Central America will likely remain high during the lean season, especially in hurricane-affected rural areas where labor demand and labor migration are likely to be below normal. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through May. However, food security will likely slightly improve in areas unaffected by the hurricanes based on projections of a gradual improvement in economic activity in 2021. Still, many rural and urban households are in these areas will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), given the uncertain pace of economic recovery and high reliance on income sources in the informal sector.
In Haiti, several rural areas are sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes due to a below-average fall harvest, limited capacity to invest in the winter agricultural season, and impacts of the macroeconomic and sociopolitical crises on livelihood activities. Urban households, especially in Port-au-Prince, are most affected by the insecure sociopolitical environment, which periodically impedes movement and access to income sources and markets. In December, the value of HTG depreciated on the informal market to 85 HTG/USD, reversing the earlier downward trend in imported food commodity prices. As a result, high staple food prices and below-normal household income are driving a decline in purchasing power.
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to become more widespread in Haiti through at least May. FEWS NET expects the lean season to begin earlier than normal in March and anticipates rising socio-political unrest will further disrupt non-agricultural income sources and contribute to price hikes for staple foods. The poorest households are expected to intensify their reliance on charcoal sales and resort to crisis coping strategies, such as consuming low-quality food or reducing daily meals.