After the hurricane, Margareth Compere receives a bundle of high-energy biscuits for her children. Copyright: WFP/David ORR
As the hurricane season approached this year, WFP positioned food in strategic points around Haiti. So when Hurricane Tomas raged off Haiti’s western coast a few days ago, emergency provisions were ready for the thousands of people facing yet another natural disaster.
PORT-AU-PRINCE--Margareth Compere watched helplessly as the flood swept through the small field where she and other families have been camped since being made homeless by the earthquake earlier this year. The swirling waters quickly soaked their bedding and the wind tore their tent to shreds. It was the middle of night and her children were screaming.
“It was terrifying,” said the 33-year old mother of six, who lives in Petit Goave, a coastal town 70 kilometres to the west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. “We grabbed some of our clothes and got to an area of higher ground beside the cemetery. In the morning, a bus came and took us to the local school”.
As Hurricane Tomas roared northwards off Haiti’s western coast, torrents of rain lashed the land, flooding towns and cutting roads. The area around Leogane, Grand Goave and Petit Goave – near the epicentre of the January quake – was badly hit. Many refused to abandon their homes but others, like Margareth, had little choice and made their way to temporary shelters.
As soon as the flood waters subsided in Petit Goave and the neighbouring towns, WFP delivered truckloads of emergency supplies to the people in the shelters. In schools and churches along the road, partner organizations handed out five-day rations of high-energy biscuits.
The rapid response was possible because emergency relief supplies had been positioned in more than 30 major locations around the country. In all, food sufficient to feed more than one million Haitians for six weeks was pre-positioned in this way in the lead-up to the hurricane season. As a result, victims of Hurricane Tomas received food within hours of the storm hitting.
The hurricane was yet another trial for Haiti's already sorely tested population. “First, we were made homeless by the earthquake”, said Margareth, “and how it’s happened again. When I went back the day after the floods, I found all our kitchen things and even our only bed had been stolen. I don’t know what we’re going do but, for now at least, we have some food.”
Programmes already in place to help quake victims recover their lives proved to be an effective means of providing support in the midst of another emergency.
Schemes providing meals to school children, food in exchange for work to rebuild communities and nutritional care for mothers and young children all helped to ensure that no one went hungry in the aftermath of the hurricane.