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15,000 Haitian flood victims assisted thanks to UK donated helicopters

PORT-AU-PRINCE - With a generous grant from the government of the United Kingdom, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has airlifted food to more than 15,000 people in desperate need of assistance following last month's torrential rains which caused devastating floods and landslides near the border with the Dominican Republic.

During the two-week operation, a cargo helicopter and a light helicopter for personnel transport chartered by WFP and funded by the United Kingdom delivered food aid to some of the most isolated villages in the mountainous Mapou district of south-eastern Haiti. With improved road access, WFP trucks will be able to reach flood victims who continue to require assistance by road.

"We are grateful for this donation which enabled us to reach thousands of people in dire need of food in remote villages affected by the floods. Without these helicopters, lives would have been put at risk since there was simply no other means of reaching these people," said Guy Gauvreau, the WFP Representative in Haiti.

The MI-8MTV cargo helicopter arrived in Port-au-Prince on 11 June and was immediately used to transport food as well as non-food items to the affected areas. In 39 flights between Port-au-Prince and Mapou, a total of 110 metric tons of food was airlifted to the victims of the floods, covering the needs of 3,000 families or 15,000 persons. The helicopter also transported some 23 MT of non-food items for other humanitarian agencies as well as personnel.

In late May, floods in Mapou affected some 10,000 households, with many people losing all their belongings and as much as 70% of the agricultural production of the surrounding villages being destroyed. Additional assistance is therefore required for the most vulnerable households in the area.

The flood victims are receiving assistance under the umbrella of WFP Emergency Operation (EMOP) launched in March, which initially targeted 140,000 vulnerable people such as nursing or pregnant mothers and HIV/AIDS orphans after months of political and civil unrest.

The assistance to flood victims has consequently placed a further strain on limited resources. To date, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA have provided support to WFP's current operations in Haiti. Following the floods, additional funds have been provided by Switzerland, Japan, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. Despite these contributions the US$7.9 million Emergency Operation is only half funded.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 80 percent of its population lives below the absolute poverty threshold of US$150 a year. Malnutrition is widespread among the most vulnerable, with severe or moderate stunting affecting 47 percent of children under five.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school a gift of hope for a brighter future.

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
WFP/Rome
Tel. +39-06-65132602
Mob. +39-3472582217
e-mail: Brenda.Barton@wfp.org

Rene McGuffin
WFP/Rome
Tel: +39-06-65132430

Gregory Barrow
WFP/London
Mob.+44-7968-008474
e-mail: Gregory.Barrow@wfp.org

Alejandro Chicheri
WFP/ Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: +507 3173 900
Mob :+(507) 675 06 17
e-mail: alejandro.chicheri@wfp.org

Anne Poulsen
WFP/Haiti
Mob:+509 550 86 94

Guy Gauvreau
WFP Country Director Haiti
Tel: +509 5544630
e-mail: guy.gauvreau@wfp.org