The amount of food being sent to tens of thousands of people on the storm-ravaged island of Haiti has tripled over the past week as the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has accelerated its hurricane response.
We are getting to people in desperate need
WFP Country Director Myrta Kaulard
“Despite challenging conditions that mean we can only transport supplies by air or sea, we have increased the amount of food we are getting to people who are in desperate need,” said WFP Country Director Myrta Kaulard, adding that logistical support from the United States, Canada, and Spain and a US$1 million donation from ECHO - the funding arm of the European Commission - had helped to get the emergency operation underway.
Rice, beans, cooking oil
Working alongside its sister agencies, UNICEF and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as well as MINUSTAH, the UN’s stabilization force in Haiti, WFP has ramped up aid deliveries since 14 September, with 1000 tons of rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh water and other supplies delivered across the country. The increase means that WFP has supplied enough food to feed 217,000 people since the relief operation was launched.
Four tropical storms – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike – have hit Haiti one after the other over the past month, leaving vast areas of the country under water. Homes have been damaged, livelihoods and crops destroyed, and the entire road system – including seven of the mountainous country’s key bridges – rendered unusable.
More than 120,000 people – over half of those receiving WFP food assistance -- are living in shelters in the city of Gonaïves, the worst hit area of Haiti, which is still 40 per cent under water and completely cut off from the rest of the country. WFP staff in Gonaïves are working alongside personnel from MINUSTAH, in thigh high mud and water, often distributing food after nightfall to avoid violence breaking out as crowds rush to distribution points.
WFP has also made food distributions flood victims in the southern Haitian villages of Les Anglais, Tiburon, Chardonnières and the town of Les Cayes, all previously inaccessible due to mudslides. The food was delivered by the Canadian military vessel St John.
Nearly all of Haiti’s agriculture was wiped out by the storms and floods destroying WFP’s plans to purchase most of the food it distributes from Haitian farmers. WFP has had to divert food from school feeding programmes and other activities designed to reduce already high levels of malnutrition.
Spain has provided valuable assistance by transporting humanitarian supplies by air from UN stores in Panama, while the United States is lending WFP landing craft and helicopters to ensure a critical lifeline between Gonaïves and the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince until September 20. WFP has meanwhile launched its own air operation in Haiti with four leased helicopters due to arrive in the country on September 16 and begin flying food to the storm hit areas the next day.
WFP is urgently appealing for US$54 million to provide food assistance and logistical support to its emergency operation in Haiti over the next 6 months.