about the author
Public Information Officer
A long-time volunteer for the Swedish Red Cross, Sofia Persson has worked with WFP since 2008. She has a Masters Degree in International Relations.
Ilija, 39, knows he’s lucky. When the earthquake struck, destroying his home in Port-au-Prince and killing four of his housemates, he was out looking for work. Like many survivors, he has left the capital for Haiti's relatively untouched north, where he is rebuilding his life.
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Ilija may be lucky to be alive, but he hasn’t been spared from tragedy. His two nieces, who lived with him in Port-au-Prince, were buried under the rubble when his house collapsed. He lost other relatives that day as well.
“I need to find work so I can pay for the funeral of my family members,” he said. With money running scarce, friends and neighbours lent his family the money to bury their dead, a debt Ilija says he is determined to pay back.
“I just want to find work so that I can start my life again,” he said.
A Fresh Start
A native of Haiti’s rural north, Ilija returned home after the earthquake. He was one of 150,000 newly homeless people who left the ruins of Port-au-Prince in search of a fresh start.
To help them, WFP is ramping up Food for Work programmes to repair roads, improve irrigation systems, build storehouses and safeguard against soil erosion. Thanks to this programme, people like Ilija are receiving food and cash for the work they put into rebuilding their country and securing their future livelihoods.
In Ilija’s home town of Gros Morne, WFP has teamed up with the Haitian micro-credit organization MPGM to repair roads and plant some 50,000 bushes and trees with an eye towards enriching the soil and boosting mango production, an important part of the local economy. Ilija now spends several hours every day planting trees.
Tree-planting schemes will also help break the cycle of deforestation, which has sapped the soil of nutrients and left much of the island at flood risk. By providing Haitians with a source of income and improving their prospects for the future, the schemes make it less likely that families will resort to cutting down trees to sell as firewood.
Giving people food in return for work on projects that strengthen their communities is one way WFP is helping them escape the hunger trap. All around the world, the Food for Assets programme is helping people irrigate farmland, conserve water, plant trees and even build schools. Find out more