The UN World Food Programme has begun feeding some of the estimated 6,000 displaced by deadly Hurricane Gustav in southern Haiti, where communities remain out of reach because of washed out roads and bridges.
WFP assessment teams on Friday traveled to the Cite Soleil neighbourhood of the capital Port au Prince, as well as the southern towns of Leogane, Grand Goave and Petit Goave, to assess food needs, after a two-day UN travel ban was lifted.
The category-1 hurricane raged through southern Haiti on Wednesday, killing at least 51 people and displacing more than 6,000 according to preliminary Government estimates. Rains and winds, in some areas at 150km/h, also destroyed homes, livestock and crops.
"Stocks in place"
“With WFP stocks already in place, our partners on the ground have been able to begin distributing food to some of the affected families, and we will continue to assist as needs are determined,” said Myrta Kaulard, WFP Country Director in Haiti. “Many people in these areas of southern Haiti already suffer malnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies, and cannot afford this kind of upheaval.”
As an initial response, in Haiti’s southeast department, WFP’s partners are distributing rice, beans and oil to 2,000 families. In the south department, 159 people in shelters are receiving two cooked meals – consisting of rice, beans and corn-soya blend – daily, for an initial period of four days.
WFP will collaborate with UNICEF to provide a complete package of food and other humanitarian items to affected populations.
Survey of affected areas
UN and Haitian Government officials are planning to fly over the area in a UN aircraft to survey affected areas and determine the scale of casualties and damages.
The natural disaster comes as WFP is running operations to help already burdened Haitian communities cope with sharp hikes in food and fuel prices. Thanks to recent generous contributions from donors, WFP has adequate food on hand to respond to this latest emergency. But contributions will be needed to replenish foodstocks for WFP’s existing programmes in the country.
Large sectors of Haiti’s population already suffer from lack of nutritious food. As of October 2007 about 25 percent of rural households were food insecure, according to a survey by the Government, WFP and other partners. While the heads of most rural households are farmers, their own production is insufficient to cover their needs. Acute malnutrition among children under five is 9 percent, chronic 24 percent. National surveys show that 72 percent of children aged six to 12 in rural areas suffer iodine deficiency and half of women and two-thirds of children under five suffer anemia.
• Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere ranking 146 on the Human Development Index, and is one of the three countries with the highest daily caloric deficit per person (460 kcal/day below the daily requirement of 2,100 kcal/day).
• Haitians have been hit hard by global food price hikes. The price of imported rice increased by over 60 percent from October 2007 to April 2008, imported wheat flour by 73 percent, and maize by 91 percent.
• Haiti imports more than a half of its food, including over 80 percent of its rice.
• Food production covers only 43 percent of the population’s needs (imports cover 52 percent and food aid 5 percent).
• 5.1 million Haitians, or 56 percent of the population, live on less than 1 US dollar a day.
• 60 percent of household income goes toward food.