World community rushes to assist Haiti earthquake victims
January 26, 2010
by Jay Sjerven
Food, drinkable water, medicine and shelter remained the principal needs of earthquake victims in Haiti. With the nation’s food manufacturing capacity demolished during the cataclysm and the destruction of facilities for cooking in both institutional and home settings, the food being provided by international relief agencies has been in the form of ready-to-eat meals and high-nutrition biscuits. The emergency food rations have been provided mostly by the United Nations World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development and distributed by W.F.P. and USAID staff as well as cooperating charities and other non-governmental organizations. In several instances, the U.S. military and U.N. peacekeepers have been involved in food distribution.
“It is vital that the response from the global humanitarian community matches the immense needs of the people of Haiti,” Josette Sheeran, executive director of the W.F.P. said on Jan. 18. “Within the next week, the W.F.P. aims to move the equivalent of 10 million ready-to-eat meals so people whose homes have been destroyed and who have no access to cooking facilities can feed their families.”
Ms. Sheeran said the W.F.P. was establishing four humanitarian hubs to deliver food assistance in Port-au-Prince and at least 30 other distribution centers at locations across Haiti.
“With immediate food needs so great, W.F.P. is issuing a global appeal to military leaders across the world to donate 100 million ready-to-eat meals so we can sustain this lifeline of food to the hungry in the first phase of the emergency,” Ms. Sheeran said. “As W.F.P.’s operation develops, we aim to transition to general food distribution of items such as rice, vegetable oil, dried beans and lentils.”
Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, confirmed on Jan. 19 his agency already had provided 600,000 emergency daily food rations and was working to secure and provide to the W.F.P. nearly 17 million ready-to-eat meals for distribution in the coming weeks. Additionally, Dr. Shah said USAID authorized the Kansas City Commodity Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase 6,500 tonnes of U.S. rice in a snap tender; the rice will be shipped to Haiti as soon as practicable.
“Much has been achieved in the short space of time since this crisis began, but this will be a long and complex humanitarian operation,” Ms. Sheeran said. “W.F.P. is appealing for $279 million to support its relief operations in Haiti and is asking governments across the world to assist by helping rehabilitate Haiti’s ports, repair the road infrastructure, provide security for humanitarian workers and donate trucks.”
Through Jan. 19, the W.F.P. has received more than $60 million in donations from governments, around $6 million from the private sector and more than $2.5 million from individuals donating on-line.