Statement by WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran on Scale Up of Relief Operation in Haiti

Published on 23 January 2010

Executive  Director  Josette Sheeran meets WFP staff in Port-Au-Prince.

Copyright: WFP/Dane Novarlic 

Words cannot describe the devastation that has been wrought on Haiti by the January 12 earthquake. Parts of the capital Port-au-Prince look worse than many war zones. After two days in the city, I have seen the depth of grief and the massive needs the quake has left in its wake.

This is the most complex operation WFP has ever launched. Haiti’s entire supply chain infrastructure has been devastated, and we have been faced with launching an operation from scratch.

WFP is pushing food supplies to the worst affected through five corridors. Our initial response – which was launched within 24 hours of the quake – has focused on targeting the most vulnerable, especially women and children. Our capacity to ramp up the operation is growing on a daily basis.  On Friday, we delivered about two million meals - a significant increase on the 1.2 million meals distributed on Thursday. We are getting the job done, even if we wish we could do more, quicker.

In my discussions with the President and Prime Minister of Haiti, the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), as well as other partners such as the United States and the European Union, I have been encouraged to find genuine cooperation and coordination. This will allow us to knit together the operation over the coming weeks, in a way that will ensure every Haitian who needs assistance, gets it.

Let me not forget my staff at WFP Haiti. Ninety percent of them have lost their homes, all of them are grieving the loss of friends and loved ones – and yet they have returned to work with a remarkable resilience of spirit and determination to help their country back to its feet.  I was able to spend time with them, camping out in tent as all our staff are doing, and listen to their heartbreaking stories of loss.  I salute them, and admire them deeply.

My heart also goes out to our sister agencies, who lost many beloved staff members, but who nonetheless carry out their important work.

None of us can count the human cost of this disaster, but generous action can help alleviate the suffering. For WFP to do its work, we’ll need the support of the international community for many months to come, and at a level that no one had initially anticipated. We thank those that have stepped forward so generously already - the people of Haiti need your continued support now more than ever.