Port-Au-Prince The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James T. Morris, today urged donors not to forget about the dire needs of the Haitian people and to increase their support for a country he described as "in danger of slipping into oblivion."
"Just as quickly as it rose, Haiti has fallen from the radar of the world media. But the troubles continue, once more in silence", said Morris.
Morris - the first head of a UN agency to visit Haiti since the outbreak of civil unrest more than two months ago - is on a three-day visit to see firsthand the situation of the most destitute people.
"Haiti urgently needs support from the international community now. Poor people cannot wait for a return to stability before receiving their daily food rations. Unless we get additional funding quickly, we will begin to see malnutrition rates, especially among children and poor families headed by women, rise in the next few months", he added.
Morris asked donors to urgently come forward with US$8 million to support recently launched emergency and special operations worth US$11.2 million. The staggering resourcing shortfall, representing 72 per cent of the total amount requested, threatens to undermine the agency's ability to operate in the country. To date, France (US$1.5 million), Italy (US$356,295), Japan (US$458,000)**, Norway (US$912,000), and Spain (US$373,000) have contributed to the recently launched operations. Over the last few years WFP Haiti has also received the firm commitment of donor countries such as Canada, the European Commission, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, the United States and other private donors.
While the agency has been operating to varying degrees throughout the crisis, last week, WFP began food distributions specifically through its new emergency operation, providing urgently needed food aid to some 140,000 expectant and nursing mothers, children under three, people affected by HIV/AIDS and orphans. The operation will run over the next eight months.
WFP has also launched a five-month Special Operation that will provide the agency -- as well as partner humanitarian organisations - with critical logistics and communication support needed to fully resume humanitarian assistance in the country.
While in Port-au-Prince, Morris visited a WFP-sponsored orphanage run by the Foundation for Worldwide Mercy and Sharing, a US charity, located in the poor neighborhood of Cazeau near the airport.
"It's clear that with food aid, small NGOs and private foundations like the Foundation for Worldwide Mercy and Sharing can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many vulnerable children - those who are poor, abandoned, mentally or physically handicapped, or HIV/AIDS orphans. Support for the Emergency and especial Operations is now absolutely critical. In no other time in the recent Haitian history international support has been so important," said Morris who wrapped up a three-day visit to Haiti Thursday.
During this, his first trip to the Caribbean country, Morris also held talks with high ranking Haitian Government officials, including the new Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, as well as with heads of other UN agencies and NGOs working in the country and diplomatic representatives from USA, Canada, France, Brazil and Chile. He also met the Haitian President, Boniface Alexandre, later Thursday.
Over the last two weeks, the World Food Programme has resumed shipments to Cap Haitien and is starting full-scale food distributions in the northern provinces but security remains a concern, particularly in some areas in the north which are still under control of armed non-governmental groups.
Despite the insecurity, in March WFP distributed food to targeted institutions across the country and was able to assist a total of 128 schools, 30 health centres and seven orphanages in Port-au-Prince and the North Departments. In addition to the 140,000 Haitians benefiting from the new emergency operation, WFP continues to target 373,000 vulnerable people through already existing programs.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the developing world as a whole. Even before the recent crisis, some 80 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. It has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS outside Africa. One out of every three children is chronically malnourished, while eight percent suffer from acute malnutrition. The country faces a dramatic food deficit: Haitians have the highest caloric shortfall in the world - ahead of even Afghanistan and Somalia. Even in rural areas, farmers depend to a large degree on purchases of imported foods.
(**In March, Japan contributed a total of US$2.8 million to WFP operations in Haiti.)
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
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