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Haiti is close to reaching a transitional council — but violence and hunger rage on


In Haiti today, there is a governing crisis and a humanitarian crisis. Late Sunday, Haitian leaders agreed to a transitional council designed to bring about a presidential election two years from now, but the violence that forced out the previous government has not gone away. Gangs still control most of the capital city, and civilians are suffering. Jean-Martin Bauer is the director of the World Food Programme in Haiti, and he joins us from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Thanks for being here again.


SHAPIRO: According to the most recent U.N.-backed analysis, nearly half the country faces food insecurity - around 5 million people. Is your team able to address those needs?

BAUER: Ari, these are the worst numbers on record for Haiti. It's a huge undertaking to try to get those down. We're still in the country. We have 300 people in Haiti in five offices, and we're out there every day carrying out distributions. But this problem has become gigantic. Food insecurity in Haiti was at a very high baseline before these problems began, and we're now facing a spike in hunger right here in Port-au-Prince, linked to the fact that there's been massive population displacements - more than 360,000 people on the move in Haiti, including more than 88,000 right here in Port-au-Prince. We're focusing on that part of the population.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Well, when we spoke to you a month ago, you told us that your team in Port-au-Prince was sheltering in place. Has that changed? Has the safety and security situation improved at all?

BAUER: I have to say we have the ability to get around to some extent. We are doing distributions in more than 50 sites where the displaced population is. We have rearranged the way we do distributions to ensure that we still get to the highest number of people. There is quite a bit of risk. I will give you an example. To go to the supermarket on Saturday, I have to go through four roadblocks. Those weren't there just a few weeks ago.

So it's still quite tense right here in Port-au-Prince. And you need to know that there's no way in, no way out. We're worried that the insecurity is causing scarcity of essential items here in the capital and that it's also, again, worsening this humanitarian crisis which was already there.

SHAPIRO: With no way in and no way out, are your stocks of food diminishing? How much longer can you go before they need to be replenished?

BAUER: We have about a month to go. We are out there every day providing food assistance to the population of Port-au-Prince. Yesterday, we were able to provide about 23,000 hot meals to the displaced population of Port-au-Prince. We've been able to do between 20, 25, even up to 30,000 hot meals every day. But, of course, we're providing this food, and our stocks are diminishing. And all that we have are the stocks we have on hand. We're not able to replenish because the port's been closed.

SHAPIRO: Do you have any hope that the announcement of this new transitional government can lead the way to an agreement with officials and the gangs that would allow humanitarian aid to come through?

BAUER: Look, it's important for security to come back to this country. It's the No. 1 issue that's at the root of all the problems I've been describing. We need security to come back. We need people to be able to go to the market without fearing for their lives. We need farmers to be able to go to their fields. We need market women to be able to bring food from markets to the capital without fearing for their own lives again, and that's just not happening right now. We also need a robust humanitarian component to anything that we do in Haiti. With half of the population starving, Haiti will never be at peace. So I do hope that the political issues, that the security issues will find a resolution so that Haiti can find some stability.

SHAPIRO: Jean-Martin Bauer directs the World Food Programme in Haiti. Thank you, and stay safe.

BAUER: Thank you.


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Kathryn Fink
Kathryn Fink is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.