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Growing insecurity hampers food delivery in Haiti

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti -The United Nations World Food Programme today expressed concern over the escalatinginsecurity in Haiti which could affect the nutritional status of as many as 268,000WFP beneficiariesif food aid deliveries to the north and northwestof the country do not resume within the coming week.

Last week, clashes between armed groups and police in thecentral city of Gonaïve resultedin the partial closure of the roadconnecting Port-au-Princeand thenortherntownsof Port-de-Paix,and Cap Haitien. Since last Thursdaythis road - which is the main route WFP uses to deliver food to its projects in the north -is completely blocked and WFPhas been unable to transport food to re-supply stocks.

During the month of February, WFP needs to deliver a total of 1,400 MT of cereals to its warehousesin Cap Haitien and Bombardopolis,to assist 268,000 people inthe north and northwestparts of the country. These include87,000 people severely affected by drought and recurrent flooding, 90,000 school children, and 91,000 vulnerable people, many of them lactating and pregnant mothers, and HIV/AIDS orphans.

"More than half the food required this month is ready for transport. If we are not ableto move it in the coming week, fooddistributions will be disrupted and malnutrition will rise, especially amongvulnerable children," said Guy Gauvreau, WFP Country Director in Haiti.

Cap Haitien, the second largest city located in the North, remains isolated from the rest of the country with no supplies arriving since last week. "We are exploring all options, including transporting food aid by boat, in order to avoid a break in supplies," added Gauvreau.

WFP warehouses in Cap Haitien and Bombardopolis have a total capacity of 5,500 MT and currently have a total stock of 1,000 MT of food, mainly oil and pulses that need to be complemented by cereals, to provide a balanced ration to beneficiaries.

Despite growing insecurity, WFP is still able to deliver food to some 77,000 people in thepoorest areas surrounding Port-Au-Prince. However, security of humanitarian food convoys is a major concern for the agency.

Since the end of November 2003,there have beeneight differentattackson trucks carrying WFP food,during which 61 MT of food was lost.

"While these incidents have not halted the distribution of our food,looting could become a major issue in the near futureif the political and social situation continues to deteriorate," said Gauvreau.

Funding for WFP's Haiti operationhas been insufficient during the last year. The latest commitments totalling US$3.7 million from the United States of America and the European Union have significantly boosted funds. However, WFP still faces a US$3.1 million shortfall for 2004.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the developing world as a whole. According to UNICEF, chronic malnutrition rates are as high as 33 per cent in some parts of the country.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2003 WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
WFP/Rome
Tel: +39-06-65132602

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

Christiane Berthiaume
WFP/Geneva
Tel: +41-22-9178564

Jordan Dey
WFP/ Washington
Tel: + 1-202-653-0010 Cell: +1- 202-422-3383

Trevor Rowe
WFP/NY
Tel: +1-212-9635196

Guy Gauvreau
WFP Country Director Haiti
Tel: + 509 51 5714

Alejandro Chicheri
WFP/ Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: +509 550 86 94