PORT AU PRINCE – In the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been working closely with the Haitian authorities and other partners to distribute high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals (MREs) to thousands of people who had taken refuge in schools and churches in the south-west of the country. In some of the most storm-affected, such as Jeremie, distributions began within hours of the first heavy rains.
“WFP had pre-positioned supplies and prepared carefully for the potential impact of this hurricane,” said WFP Country Representative, Myrta Kaulard. “We have learnt many lessons since the earthquake earlier this year and from the disasters caused by previous hurricanes. We were ready for the worst, and our response has been coordinated and efficient.”
While the hurricane did not make landfall in Haiti, it produced torrential rains which battered much of the country on Friday and again on Saturday. These caused widespread flooding and landslides, particularly in the south-west of the country.
Among the worst affected was Leogane, near the capital Port au Prince, whose town centre was inundated with muddy water after a local river burst its banks. In Gonaives, high-energy biscuits were distributed to more than 300 people on Friday and three-day rations given to some 440-flood affected people on Saturday. MREs were handed out on Sunday those who had sought shelter in Petit Goave.
The rapid reaction was made possible by WFP’s pre-positioning of emergency relief supplies in more than 30 major locations around the country. Elsewhere, in smaller, more remote communities, smaller stocks of food had been laid in with the help of the local authorities. In all, food sufficient to feed more than one million Haitians for six weeks was pre-positioned in a variety of locations deemed to be vulnerable.
WFP is now prioritizing the resumption of its regular programmes – school meals,
nutrition for mothers and young children, and cash and food for work. CFW and FFW projects are designed not only to help rehabilitate the environment and infrastructure damaged by the earthquake but also to restore livelihoods. Special emphasis will now be put on the expansion of CFW and FFW projects in agricultural areas affected by the recent heavy rains.
A WFP helicopter has been delivering food and non-food items to areas hit by the heavy rains as well as by the cholera epidemic which has affected various parts of the country. This week-end water-purification tablets, clean water and medical supplies were flown in to a number of areas where cholera has been rife.