On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a powerful earthquake that left more than 220,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and millions displaced.
Between January and April 2010, WFP provided emergency food assistance through general food distributions to some 4 million Haitians in Port-au-Prince and earthquake-affected areas.
A year and a half after the catastrophe, WFP supports the Haitian government’s plan for recovery and development by improving access to food for the most vulnerable. School meals, nutrition and job creation initiatives are the agency’s main activities in Haiti. WFP is also contributing to agricultural rehabilitation and increasing its local purchases to boost food production in the country.
Access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food remains an issue for millions of Haitians. Food insecurity in the areas directly affected by the earthquake has dropped but levels are still higher than they were prior to the earthquake. Nationally, between 2.5 and 3.3 million Haitians, or about a third of the population is estimated to be food insecure.
Haiti is a food deficit country. It relies heavily on imported food – 50 percent of national requirements are imported. Food prices have been rising since the end of 2010. In a country where approximately half of the population lives with less than $1 a day and three quarters have less than $2 per day, this increase has led to an overall loss of purchasing power for the majority of Haitians. WFP is using its three main programmes – school meals, nutrition and cash and food for work- to alleviate the impact of rising food prices on the most vulnerable.
Over the years, natural disasters have intensified Haiti's plight. Every year between June and November, the hurricane season brings with it fears of more devastating storms. In October 2010, as the country was still trying to recovery from January's earthquake, a cholera epidemic broke out and efforts are still underway to contain the disease.
WFP has been present in Haiti since 1969.
Despite the world’s generosity, WFP still urgently needs contributions to continue its activities in Haiti.
WFP and its partners are assisting victims of the earthquake and vulnerable Haitians with programmes supporting the Government’s Action Plan for National Recovery and Development in Haiti.
School Meals Programme
When a new school year started in October 2010, WFP increased its support of the Government’s National School Meals Programme. Everyday, more than a million children in the country’s ten departments receive a hot nutritious meal at school. “Sometimes, we don’t have enough food at home, it’s good to know that my child will find something good to eat at school”, said Etienne Olguy, the father of a girl studying in a 4th grade class. As one Port-au-Prince school principal put it, the school meals programme is essential because “if the students don’t eat, they can’t see, they can’t hear, they can’t learn”.
Another WFP priority is to increase the quantity of food purchased locally and used in the school meals program. This is done in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Begun in 2010, a pilot project provides schools with cooking stoves fueled by briquettes made of recycled paper and cardboard. This initiative reduces charcoal consumption in the country.
Cash and Food for Work
In collaboration with the government and partners, WFP expanded its employment programme by hiring workers paid in food, cash or a combination of both.
Shortly after the earthquake, thousands of Haitians were hired to clean canals and ditches to prevent flooding during the rainy season. They also started tackling the huge task facing the country: removing rubble from the earthquake, a crucial step to allow people to start rebuilding their communities.
Projects financed by WFP all have one thing in common: they help Haitians provide food for their families. They also give people opportunities to improve their communities and reduce the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
Working in close coordination with the Haitian government, local authorities, NGOs and UN agencies, cash and food for work activities include but are not limited to rubble removal, watershed management and agricultural rehabilitation.
Immediately after the earthquake, it was difficult to measure the impact of the catastrophe on children under 5 and on pregnant and lactating women. There was a risk that malnutrition rates could explode. Working with its partners, WFP decided to tackle this problem by adopting an innovative strategy based on prevention and treatment. Blanket distributions of fortified foods designed to combat malnutrition were organized.
An independent study done with the support of the Ministry of Health demonstrated that this approach helped Haiti avoid a nutritional crisis in the aftermath of the earthquake.
More than a year later, nutrition interventions are ongoing. Pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under 5 receive fortified foods, such as fortified peanut paste and corn soya blend, along with oil and sugar, to treat malnutrition.
WFP is providing food assistance to Haitians affected by HIV/ tuberculosis as well as their family members.
Because of Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, WFP is working closely with the Haitian Directorate of Civil Protection to ensure the country is ready to respond to emergencies. Again this year, food is pre-positioned in the most vulnerable areas across the country.
Prepositioning is important because when Haiti is hit by torrential rains, many roads can become impassable. With stocks already in place, WFP will be able to reach the population quickly.