UN World Food Programme

Journalist George Stroumboulopoulos Visits Haiti Two Years After Quake

WFP Ambassador, George Stroumboulopoulos visits Haitian school children as they were just about to eat a hot meal (Copyright: WFP/ Michelle Marrion). 

Almost two years after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, WFP Ambassador Against Hunger George Stroumboulopoulos went to the Caribbean island to see how the nation was faring. WFP's Stephanie Tremblay took the Canadian journalist to a camp near Port au Prince where WFP and its partners are helping to fight malnutrition among some of those made homeless by the disaster.

PORT-AU-PRINCE-- After luggage was loaded onto the car, everyone went to one of Port-au-Prince's biggest camps. Nearly two years after the earthquake, Camp Sersal, as the encampment is now called, still houses close to 10,000 people, all of them in tents or temporary shelters.

Here, the World Food Programme works with a Haitian non-governmental organization, the Foundation for the Development of Haitian Families (FONDEFH) to fight malnutrition. WFP and FONDEFH started working in this camp shortly after the earthquake and the health clinic reflects the temporary nature of the settlement. Free medical services are provided in a big tent.  “The needs are great, demand is too as we have a lot of cases of moderate malnutrition,” said Dr. Margaret Mallet, the head of FONDEFH.

When Stroumboulopoulos arrived, dozens of women and young children were waiting to see the nurses. Children aged six months to five years old are weighed and measured to determine whether they suffer from malnutrition. Pregnant or nursing women are also examined, again to see if they are malnourished.

When the verdict is moderate malnutrition, women and children are enrolled in WFP’s program. They move to a smaller tent next to the first one to receive special fortified food to help them get healthy again. This is a process that women and children will repeat several times to make sure the treatment is efficient.

Every day, the clinic is bustling with people. FONDEFH is working with WFP, but also offers a wide range of medical services supported by UNICEF, USAID, and other partners.

That ad hoc health center has to serve a lot of people and right out of there, you address family nutrition needs and you have the feeding center next to it,” said George Stroumboulopoulos.

In most cases, people who come here have lost their house and their livelihoods in the earthquake. Their financial resources are extremely limited and they say the products they get from the World Food Programme really make a difference in the lives of their families.

The next stop for Stroumboulopoulos and his team was a public school where children were just about to eat a hot meal. Everyday, across Haiti, WFP and its partners provide full meals to 1.1 million schoolchildren.

I like how the school feeding program is so tied to education so you feel you’re not just addressing an emergency situation. You’re not just feeding somebody because they’re hungry,” George said. “Here, kids are coming, they’re learning, they’re reading, and they’re eating at the same time. Both are feeding into each other. It’s cool to see all of that,” he added.

In Haiti, the Government’s objective is to build a universal school meals program that primarily uses local products purchased from small producers. WFP supports the Haitian National School Meals Program and is working towards this objective by developing strong links between local agriculture and schools.

When George Stroumboulopoulos visited École Nationale de Tabarre, bags of rice produced in the South of Haiti and purchased with funds donated by Canada demonstrated how the Government’s objective is already a reality in some of Haiti’s schools.

And at the end of a packed day, what did the Ambassador Against Hunger think of his first visit to Haiti?

Work here appears to be very efficient and I liked how everybody is working together,” he concluded.