ROME, Dec 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has started distributing seeds and tools to Haitian farmers reeling from Hurricane Matthew, to help them recover from the country's worst humanitarian crisis since a 2010 earthquake.
The FAO said by mid-December it aims to reach around 125,250 people in regions hardest hit by the hurricane which struck the Caribbean nation on Oct. 4, destroying 90 percent of the harvest and leaving 1.4 million people in need of food aid.
In the worst-hit areas including Grand'Anse, parts of Nippes, and Sud departments over 75 percent of the population is struggling to recover, the U.N. agency said on Tuesday.
"Hurricane Matthew not only eliminated the last harvest - it also compromised the upcoming planting season and the country's ability to feed itself," said Nathanael Hishamunda, FAO representative in Haiti.
"These communities need urgent support to prevent them from adapting survival strategies that put them into a vicious cycle of dependence, including eating seeds meant for producing food in future harvests," he added.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing food aid to the same families that are receiving seeds and cuttings from the FAO to grow vegetables such as green beans, lima beans, and sweet potatoes.
The next major harvest begins in April.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, with three-quarters of Haitians living on less than $2 a day. Half the population is undernourished.
The island nation is the world's third most-affected country by extreme weather events, according to the Climate Risk Index.
Over the last two decades Haiti has been repeatedly hit by severe natural disasters, including storms, floods, landslides, drought and earthquakes.
The worst was the devastating earthquake in January 2010 which killed some 200,000 people.
This year, Haiti experienced its third consecutive year of drought, exacerbated by the global El Nino weather phenomenon which more than halved agricultural production in Haiti, forcing prices for locally-grown food up by around 40 percent.
El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, can lead to scorching weather across Asia and Africa.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)