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WFP Gets Ready To Respond To “Extremely Dangerous” Hurricane Irma In The Caribbean

PORT AU PRINCE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing to provide emergency assistance to the people of Haiti should the country be hit by Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded. The Category 5 storm, described as “extremely dangerous” by the United States’ National Hurricane Centre, was due to pass over the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday. It could make landfall in the US state of Florida at the weekend.

Haiti is particularly vulnerable, having been devastated in 2010 by one of the most destructive earthquakes of recent times and ravaged last year by Hurricane Matthew.

“Hurricane Irma comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still recovering from last year’s hurricane,” says WFP Country Director, Ronald Tran Ba Huy. “This is all about preparing for the worst and making sure that, if the hurricane causes widespread destruction, we are ready with food that people can eat immediately while the recovery operation gets underway.”

An aircraft bound for Haiti and carrying some 80 metric tons of emergency food supplies and other equipment on behalf of WFP, CARE and Catholic Relief Services is due to leave the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai early on Thursday morning local time. In addition to tarpaulins and hygiene items, the cargo contains enough High-Energy Biscuits to feed some 47,000 people for three days – these rations are suitable for use in crises when the cooking of food may not be possible.  The flight is funded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and organized by the International Humanitarian City under the chairmanship of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.

WFP has contingency food stocks in Haiti to cover the needs of up to 150,000 people for a month and a 23-truck fleet ready for deployment in northern coastal areas of the country. Additional staff have been deployed from WFP’s Regional Bureau in Panama and emergency teams are on stand-by to assess the needs of the population after the passage of Irma which could cause floods and landslides.

WFP is working with the governments of the Dominican Republic and Cuba so as to provide technical assistance in supply chain and emergency food assistance if necessary. WFP has prepositioned food stocks in Cuba to support 270,000 people for a month.

Irma is among the strongest of hurricanes which are graded 1 to 5 on the basis of sustained wind speeds. Category 5 applies to any hurricane with winds of 157 mph or higher - powerful enough to cause "catastrophic damage."

Major damage and flooding have already been reported from the northern Leeward Islands, which Irma hit with winds of over 180 mph in the early hours of Wednesday local time. Meanwhile, another hurricane, Jose, is reported to be coming in behind Irma.

Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane, hit Haiti last October, leaving 1.4 million people in need of food assistance, of whom more than 800,000 needed urgent assistance. At the time, WFP provided food assistance to some 920,000 people in hurricane-stricken areas.

Poverty, depletion of the environment and geography make Haiti extremely vulnerable to disasters such as hurricanes, floods and landslides. The 2016 Climate Risk Index lists Haiti in third place among countries most affected by extreme weather events.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media  @WFP_Haiti

For more information please contact (email address:
Lorene Didier, WFP Haiti, +509 3800 4976
Norha Restrepo, WFP Latin America and the Caribbean, +507 317 3900
Frances Kennedy, WFP/Rome Mob: +39 346 7600806
Steve Taravella, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob.  +1-646 525 9982
Challiss McDonough, WFP/Washington Tel. +1-202-653-1149   Mob. +1-202-774-4026
Bettina Luescher, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 842 8057