Remembering Our Response to the Haitian Earthquake - A Food Crisis Avoided

Monday, January 12th marks the 5th anniversary of the magnitude 7 earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding cities. In just 35 seconds over 230,000 people lost their lives, approximately 300,000 were injured and 2.3 million were displaced. Within hours of this deadly quake, the World Food Programme (WFP) was on the ground responding.

Overnight, Haitians who had lost everything no longer had access to food, and were facing a grave situation. WFP began by handing out high-energy biscuits (HEBs) but within weeks, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt were reaching  hospitals, orphanages, and neighborhoods in the affected areas.

Haitians carrying WFP food assistance
Photo:WFP/Alejandro Lopez-Chicheri

From early February to mid-April 2010, despite the enormous logistical challenges of operating  in an almost completely destroyed setting, a massive distribution operation was in place which meant that basic food was available to more than two thirds of the population  in the affected areas.

Initiatives Centered On Women and Children

WFP organized the distribution of fortified foods for all pregnant and breastfeeding women and all children from 6 to 59 months to prevent malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups living in IDP (Internally Displaced Refugees) camps.

Feeding an Haitian child
Photo:WFP/Marco Frattini

WFP with the support of the Government of Haiti helped to attract students back to school after the earthquake through school meals programmes. A daily school meal encouraged parents to send their children back to school and it ensured they receive at least one hot meal per day.

An Averted Crisis

Scenes from a food distribution in Haiti

An initial food security survey showed that about 1.3 million people living in the affected areas, did not have enough to eat. An additional 600,000 people who had lost their homes were also struggling to meet their basic food needs.

A later survey revealed that these numbers had reduced and that a severe food crisis had been averted. This was possible thanks to the coordination of government and the commitment of delegates, mayors, civil society, national and international NGOs, the national police, soldiers from several countries, the media and, of course, the generosity of donors.

 

For a more detailed account of WFP operations in Haiti since the earthquake click here.