Originally written by Anastasia Moloney for AlertNet.

BOGOTA (AlertNet) – Years of neglect of agriculture and disaster prevention in Haiti, coupled with the government’s failure to protect the environment and stem deforestation, are exacerbating food shortages following Hurricane Sandy, aid agencies say.

Tropical storm Sandy skirted the island but killed at least 52 people in Haiti and destroyed or damaged around 200,000 homes, the government says – the highest death toll in the Caribbean.

Strong winds and torrential rains triggered landslides and severe flooding across the island, washing away livestock and fields of maize, beans, rice, banana and coffee.

“There are definitely going to be food shortages. In some areas, up to 40 percent of crops have been lost. The problem is particularly bad in low-lying areas that have been flooded. This is going to have major consequences on food production and food security,” said Jean-Michel Vigreux, Haiti country director for the charity CARE.

The lack of flood prevention measures in Haiti, such as flood walls and dredged rivers, along with widespread deforestation, have magnified the damage and the number of casualties Hurricane Sandy left in its wake, aid agencies say.

“We can’t keep reacting to emergencies. There needs to be a long-term plan and approach to build resilience to natural disasters in Haiti,” Vigreux said.

DEFORESTATION

Decades of deforestation have left Haiti with less than two percent of its original forest cover, according to the United Nations. This causes soil erosion and reduces the ability of soil to retain water, making Haiti more vulnerable to flooding and landslides. There were few trees to stop the recent heavy rainfall from washing down the bare mountainsides.

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