Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 11:52 UK

Haiti facing 'major food crisis'

Children queue for food at church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti 30/4/2008
Malnutrition is widespread in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world

Haiti faces a "major crisis" if the international community does not increase food aid to the country, the UN's food agency has warned.

The World Food Programme director for the region, Pedro Medrano, said Haiti required more help to feed its poor.

He appealed for $54m (27m) in new funding to counter food prices which have risen sharply around the world.

At least six people were killed in Haiti last month as protests over rising prices turned violent.

The prices of wheat, rice and other staple crops have nearly doubled in the last year in response to rising global population, higher fuel costs and increased demand from India and China.

'Silent tsunami'

The United Nations ranks Haiti as one of the least developed countries in the world, and the poorest in the western hemisphere.

More than half of the population lives on less than $1 per day and chronic malnutrition is widespread, says the WFP.

Protest over cost-of-living increases in Port-au-Prince, Haiti - 8/4/2008
At least six people died when protests over price rises turned violent

"This is a major crisis," said the WFP's Pedro Medrano as he visited Haiti. "Are we going to intervene when it's too late?"

Legislators sacked Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis over the food crisis on 12 April and there are fears of further unrest.

"It is not so important how much money we are able to raise for our cause," said Mr Medrano.

"The question is how much the international community and all of us are prepared to pay for not doing what needs to be done."

The WFP has asked for $54m in new funding to provide Haiti with 50,000 tonnes of food until the end of the year.

The agency has called the food price increases a "silent tsunami" and warned that the rises are expected to continue.

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