Port-Au-Prince, Haiti - The United Nations World Food Programme, with the assistance of Oxfam and Caritas, is providing urgently needed emergency food rations to thousands of families affected by floods in northern Haiti.
A joint relief agency assessment team sent to evaluate the situation has reported that families affected by the floods are already facing health threats due to poor hygiene, while hundreds of households are relying on unsafe floodwater for drinking and cooking. Due to already high malnutrition rates in Haiti, the population is more vulnerable to outbreaks of diseases.
"The recent floods have affected the poorest people of Cap Haitian. This is an area where malnutrition is endemic and the flooding is causing an already grave situation to rapidly deteriorate," said Guy Gauvreau, the WFP Representative in Haiti.
"The damage to crops, livestock and food reserves is indeed great and without international assistance, thousands of families will have little or nothing to eat."
The joint assessment mission concluded that some 24,875 people, or nearly 5,000 families, are urgently in need of food. WFP is assisting these most vulnerable by providing a one-month family ration consisting of 50 kg of rice, 10 kg of pulses and 4.6 litres of vegetable oil.
Heavy rains which fell from the 20 December to 23 December caused severe flooding and landslides in northern Haiti. WFP immediately responded by providing emergency assistance to 2,000 families, borrowing 100 metric tonnes of rice and 9 metric tonnes of vegetable oil from an already-existing operation to assist vulnerable groups in Haiti.
Based on the recent assessment, WFP estimates it will require some 322 tons of food at a value of US$200,000 for the month-long emergency response. Also required will be funds and partners to implement food-for-work projects to rehabilitate the damaged infrastructure while assisting those who are displaced or have lost their belongings and harvest.
"We urgently need to pre-position more food to meet the increasing demand for assistance in Haiti," Gauvreau said. "The North and Northwestern Departments are two of the poorest regions in the country where some 40 percent of the households face chronic food shortages and many households have been devastated by the HIV pandemic."
"School feeding and health-related programmes in Haiti have not received the food aid expected from the international community. As a result, thousands of children and pregnant and lactating women might not receive their ration beginning in February", he added.
The current crisis is complicated by the fact that roads in some regions are closed due to demonstrations and political and civil unrest could make aid distributions even more difficult.
In addition to political instability, Haiti also faces an ecological disaster: more than 90 percent of its forests have been chopped down, resulting in the destruction of two-thirds of the country's farmland.
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:
Deputy Director Communications
WFP/Rome, Tel: +39-06-65132602
WFP Country Director Haiti
Tel: + 509 51 03 946