UN News Centre
Six months after being devastated by a massive earthquake, Haiti is on the road towards enhancing its food security, with assistance from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in building a strong nutritional foundation for all of the impoverished Caribbean nation’s people.
“In the hours immediately after the quake, WFP provided emergency food assistance that prevented this catastrophic event from evolving into a hunger crisis for the people of Haiti and the world,” said the agency’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.
“Now we are working with the Government and other partners on programmes that use a mixture of food- and cash-for-work, school meals and nutritional initiatives to rebuild the food security system in Haiti,” she added.
More than 200,000 people were killed in the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, which left 1.3 million more homeless and destroyed countless buildings, including Government facilities, hospitals and schools.
WFP has implemented temporary work schemes across the country, in partnership with the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Although the initiatives vary, they all seek to contribute to Haiti’s reconstruction and give agriculture a boost.
Workers are typically paid in both food and cash, giving them enough money for necessary expenditures, such as medicine and clothing, and also stimulating the local economy. The food and cash packages given to individual workers are intended to sustain families of up to five people.
Currently, some 35,000 people are employed in the WFP schemes, and that number is set to balloon up to 140,000 before the end of this year.
“We’re supporting huge numbers of people who would otherwise struggle to put food on their tables,” said WFP Country Director Myrta Kaulard.
The agency is also working with Haitian authorities to reach 655,000 school-aged children with hot meals every day, hoping to expand this to 800,000 by the end of 2010.
“The school meals programme is a cornerstone of our operations in Haiti,” Ms. Kaulard said. “It is a simple and effective way to guarantee children at least one nutritional meal every day and keep them learning.”
For pregnant and nursing women, as well as children under the age of five, WFP is distributing special nutritional food supplements to ensure that the most vulnerable groups do not become malnourished.
With the hurricane season under way in Haiti, WFP has pre-positioned enough food to feed 1.1 million Haitians for six weeks, and has also organized a barge service, for the entire humanitarian community, to link Haiti’s main ports to its capital, Port-au-Prince, and the capital of neighbouring Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, should rain and landslides block roads.
“We need to keep a balance between improving access to food for the most vulnerable Haitians, while taking care not to disrupt local markets or exclude local farmers from selling their produce,” Ms. Kaulard said.
WFP, she said, will purchase food locally when possible, with the upcoming harvest bringing new products to the market.
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