Is There Food Security After Recent Hurricanes?

Here is the definition of Food Security according to the World Food Program:

People are considered food secure when they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.

Food security analysts look at the combination of the following three main elements:

1. Food availability: Food must be available in sufficient quantities and on a consistent basis.It considers stock and production in a given area and the capacity to bring in food from elsewhere, through trade or aid.
2. Food access: People must be able to regularly acquire adequate quantities of food, through purchase, home production, barter, gifts, borrowing or food aid.
3. Food utilization: Consumed food must have a positive nutritional impact on people. It entails cooking, storage and hygiene practices, individuals ‘health, water and sanitations, feeding and sharing practices within the household.

We are seeing Food Insecurity right now in the United States and other countries in the Americas.


Yes that’s right, the United Sates. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are territories of the USA and as such are subject to the protection of The United States of America.

Is it temporary? We hope so. In light of the catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico and surrounding Caribbean islands and countries, the affects may be longer than we wish.

First there was damage from Hurricane Irma.

The Category 5 storm hammered the islands with sustained winds of near-record 185mph, battering an estimated 1.2 million people. Beside the tragic loss of 44 lives, the survivors have to deal with rebuilding their homes – and their lives..

In Barbuda, 99% of all the buildings have been destroyed. In Cuba, drinking water has been contaminated, according to The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA).

The list of damage goes on and on. St Martin: 60% of homes are uninhabitable; Anguilla has lost 90% of its government buildings; British Virgin Islands, 75-90% structural damage or destruction.

After Hurricane Maria things are even bleaker

On the US Virgin Island of St Thomas:

What is left looks like a bombsite. The remnants of residents’ lives… are strewn in piles on the hilltop. Although about 160 of Tutu’s worst-affected families have been relocated to shelters and given vouchers to find new housing; others, less affected, had to remain behind. There is no water or electricity. [St Thomas resident] Francis carries pails collected from the cistern up a steep hill and flights of stairs to supply her apartment.

“We’ve been treated like dogs,” she said. “We have to scavenge for food, for water.”

Yes that is correct, these people, US Citizens, have had to resort to scavenging for food and water. They are the very definition of Food Insecurity, in the extreme.

After Hurricane Maria, the situation in Puerto Rico is being described by Governor Ricardo Rossello as a “humanitarian crisis.”

As of October 1st, more than half of Puerto Rico is still without drinking water. On October 4th, 95% of Puerto Rico was still without power.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz responded…to an assertion made by the acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke that the hurricane response was “a good news story.”

“This is a ‘people are dying’ story,” she told CNN.

On Tuesday, the governor of Puerto Rico updated the island’s death toll to 34.

How does this affect Food Security in the region?

The storm’s damage … threatens Cuba’s food security, with key agricultural crops like plantains, rice and sugarcane damaged and food storage areas isolated or destroyed by flooding.

Not surprisingly, Food Insecurity already existed on Puerto Rico prior to the storms. Less than 10% of food was grown locally. Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector is less than 1% of its GDP, making it’s agriculture output one of the lowest worldwide. There is no local grain production and even though it could grow its own fruits and vegetables, most are imported.

Only through a thorough re-evaluation of land use and agriculture practices will a solution emerge. Sustainable agriculture, urban farming, and encouragement of small and medium scale progressive farming are needed to turn things around.

The islands that were not direct hits by Irma are also suffering – from crop loss due to storm damage.

Here is the situation in Haiti:

For the second time in 11 months, Mother Nature had dealt a crippling blow to Haiti.

“This storm didn’t even leave one tree with food on it for us to eat,” said an exasperated Esperance, 41, holding a rusty machete in one hand and an overripe breadfruit in the other, not far from one of his farms. “This has taken food out of the mouths of my children.”

How Can You Help Right Now?

These organizations are taking donations for relief effort

MARIA RELIEF:

  • Sierra Club de Puerto Rico is a community based climate organization protecting the northeast ecological corridor.
  • Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund supports frontline Puerto Rican communities in the recovery from Hurricane Maria and is housed at the Center for Popular Democracy in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Fund for the Virgin Islands was established by Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands to benefit those in crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
  • El Puente is a community human rights institution with a local office in San Juan that provides the option to donate directly to support hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
  • Hispanic Federation recently launched a hurricane relief fund for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico.

MARIA, IRMA & EARTHQUAKE RELIEF:

  • Global Giving distributes donations to its network of local nonprofit partners around the world prioritizing those with the greatest need. They have established hurricane relief funds for Hurricanes Maria and Irma, as well as an earthquake relief fund for Mexico.

Relief organization list comes from  EarthJustice.org

 

Sources:

World Food Program
https://www.wfp.org/node/359289

CNN World News/Americas   By Eliza Mackintosh and Kara Fox, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/13/americas/hurricane-irma-caribbean-one-week-on/index.html

The Miami Herald  By Jacqueline Charles
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article172268857.html

The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/08/us-virgin-islands-the-american-citizens-battered-by-hurricane-maria-and-forgotten

USA Today News by Oren Dorell
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/09/30/puerto-rico-by-the-numbers/720731001/

ABC News by Laughlin Elizabeth McG
http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-maria-95-percent-puerto-rico-power/story?id=50276834

EarthJustice.org
https://earthjustice.org/blog/2017-september/harvey-irma-and-fires-how-to-help

Organic Farm
http://organicfarm.net/Article_food_security_in_puerto_rico.htm


Photo Credit Angel Valentin for NPR – Rafael Medina Rios, 66, walks through his barren banana plantation behind his house in Cayey, Puerto Rico. The plants were damaged by Hurricane Maria.