Braced For Haiti’s Hurricane Season

As the first hurricane of 2009 grinds its way across the western Atlantic, the World Food Programme in Haiti is completing disaster-preparedness measures for this year’s hurricane season, in an island nation hit by four serious storms last year

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Thankfully, Hurricane Bill should swing to the north and miss the islands of the Caribbean, but Bill is a reminder that meteorologists have predicted 11 major storms or hurricanes in the coming months.

WFP is ready to launch a major relief effort if a powerful storm hits Haiti and wreaks massive devastation – as was the case in 2008, when four severe storms battered the island nation.

Alongside the food required for all ongoing operations in the country, 5,700 metric tons of food have been set aside for post-disaster relief – enough to supply 500,000 people with an emergency one-month ration of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and salt. WFP has also stockpiled special, highly-nutritious food for 35,000 children and pregnant and lactating women.

Prepared for the worst

But that food can only be distributed quickly if the roads are passable, which will probably not be the case in the immediate aftermath of a major storm. Flood waters will have submerged roads and swept bridges away. In the days following a hurricane, it is likely that thousands of people will not even have wood or charcoal to prepare staple foods like cereals or pulses.

WFP logistics team members offloading ration bags from the truckIn preparation for that worst-case scenario, WFP is dispersing appropriate immediate-response food throughout the country – high-energy biscuits that need no cooking.

Trucks and helicopters

The WFP inter-agency logistics office has almost finished stationing its fleet of 63 six-wheel-drive, ‘go-anywhere’ trucks throughout Haiti.

Available free of charge to all humanitarian organizations, these trucks can carry far more than food. In 2008, they also delivered a range of other crucial supplies to many of the 800,000 people affected by the storms, including construction materials to rebuild their homes.

And if even these trucks can’t get through, then WFP will resort to helicopters – as it did last year – to get vital assistance to people in remote and inaccessible communities that need it urgently.