EXTREME poverty is forcing Haiti's poorest people to eat dirt.
Mud cookies - made from dirt, salt and vegetable shortening - have become popular among Haitians desperate to stave off hunger, the Associated Press reports.
The cookies - which are occasionally used by pregnant women and children as an antacid and source of calcium - have become a regular meal.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the most disadvantaged in the world.
Seventy-six per cent of the population lives on less than $2.25 a day, and 55 per cent live on less than $1.13 a day.
Chronic malnutrition is widespread and diarrhoea - an easily-preventable disease - kills one in five children under the age of five.
Haitian doctors have warned that relying on the mud cookies will lead to malnutrition.
“Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it,” said Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti’s health ministry.
The mud cookies sell for around five cents each, compared to 60 cents for two cups of rice.