PORT-AU-PRINCE - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) delivered food aid on Thursday to some of the most isolated villages in the mountainous Mapou district of south-eastern Haiti, for the first time since floods devastated the region two weeks ago, leaving thousands of people cut off and in desperate need of assistance.
With the help of a helicopter provided by the departing Multinational Interim Force (MIF), sent to Haiti in March to restore security after months of political and civil turmoil, WFP transported 15 metric tons of rice, flour and vegetable oil to Mapou, meeting the food needs of 742 families - 3,710 people - for one week.
WFP also sent a convoy of trucks to the village of Pichon, about 10 km outside Mapou, with a total of 4.4 tons of food to cover the needs of 230 families or 1,150 persons.
"We very much appreciate this latest assistance from the MIF, who have already given us crucial support in reaching thousands of people affected by the floods," said Omar Bula-Escobar, WFP Regional Coordinator for Latin America. "Now we have been able to assist the most isolated families in dire need of food because of the floods."
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, which hit Haiti on 23 May, WFP used MIF helicopters to deliver food aid to areas cut of by landslides, including some parts of Mapou. Between 27 and 29 May, for example, WFP airlifted 33 tons of food to Mapou for some 8,000 beneficiaries and an additional 27 tons for 6,800 people in the town of Fond Verrettes. The airlifts ceased on 31 May when the MIF mission to Haiti officially ended.
The flood victims are receiving assistance under the umbrella of an Emergency Operation launched in March, which initially targeted 140,000 vulnerable people affected by the political and civil upheaval. Most of the beneficiaries are school children and vulnerable groups such as nursing or pregnant mothers and HIV/AIDS orphans.
"WFP is already providing food to hundreds of thousands of Haitians through different programmes. We need to make every possible effort to provide assistance to the most vulnerable in the most remote areas," Bula-Escobar said.
WFP will continue to distribute food to the victims of the floods and landslides, using a WFP-chartered MI-8 helicopter, funded by donations from the United Kingdom and the United States.
To date, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland 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, there is still a 62 percent shortfall of the US$7.9 million required for the emergency operation.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is trying to recover from torrential rains that began on 23 May and caused devastating floods and landslides in a mountainous area located near the border with the Dominican Republic.
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.
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Deputy Director Communications
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WFP/ Latin America and the Caribbean
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