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April 21, 2010

WFP Pre-Positioning Food In Haiti Before Rains and Hurricanes

by Lisa Schlein

The World Food Program says it is pre-positioning two million ready-to-eat meals and other food supplies throughout Haiti in preparation for the rainy and hurricane seasons.

The rainy season in Haiti is expected to peak in mid-May and the hurricane season about one month later.  

The World Food Program says it wants to head off difficulties in transporting food during these periods by pre-positioning supplies in a number of strategic locations throughout the country.  

In anticipation of the hurricane season, the World Food Program says it is distributing 20,000 metric tons of food.  That is enough to feed 1.3 million people for six weeks.  

A program to relocate internally displaced people from vulnerable camps in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince to safer areas before the rains is ending.  The World Food Program says it is supporting this program by providing the IDPs with three-weeks worth of food rations.  

WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella says the emergency operation in Haiti is winding down, so her agency is focusing on the most vulnerable people and this includes children.

"That is why what we are doing is increasing school feeding as the schools are re-opening," said Emilia Casella. "But, also providing blanket supplementary feeding to young children in all of the IDP settlements that have been set up.  And, also providing meals to school age children in all school locations, even if the school itself is not yet open."  

Casella says the World Food Program will increase the number of school children it feeds from 500,000 to 800,000.  In addition, she says it aims to employ 26,000 workers this month in its cash and food for work program.  And, she says the U.N. agency plans to increase this number to 70,000 workers in the coming months.

"People are receiving about 42-percent payment in food and then a further 58 percent in cash, which amounts to $74 a month for each individual who is doing the work," she said. "And, the work that is being done right now is to clean drainage areas, areas where water might collect or to make sure water is passing through in the rains, as well as working on irrigation and support for farmland."  

Casella says the World Food Program is working with the Haitian government to stimulate agricultural production by procuring locally produced food.  But she notes Haiti was not producing enough food to feed itself before the earthquake struck, so it is likely food will have to be imported in the future.