Children in class after eating their school meal at École Nationale République de la Colombie in Port-au-Prince. WFP/Stephanie Tremblay
Haiti has spent two years rebuilding. In testing times, the people of this country have managed to partly erase the scars of the January 2010 earthquake. Above all, Haitians are now seeking stability. They are looking for a permanent roof, jobs, education and enough food to properly feed their families. But as the country is slowly recovering, many Haitians continue to struggle to have enough to eat.
For many, the persistence of food insecurity is quite rightly seen as an emergency. This is why Haitian authorities have asked WFP to focus its intervention on a range of programmes to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable and to support recovery efforts in the country.
WFP is supporting the National School Meals Programme and, together with its partners, is providing 1.1 million children a nutritious hot meal daily in over 3,000 schools.
Rice and beans are on the menu for the 1,700 students enrolled at the National School of Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. "They generally find something to eat at home, but not always”, says Lucien Jean-François, director of the school. "WFP gives us rice, beans, salt and oil at the end of each month. This is critical for the children. As they say in Haiti, ‘a hungry belly has no ears’. Were it not for this programme, some families would keep their children at home to do domestic work or to go to the market”.
President Michel Martelly, who has made free and universal education one of his major objectives, welcomed this cooperation with Haitian institutions. “It’s good, it’s really good!” exclaimed President Martelly, tasting a dish of rice and beans served in a canteen on the first day of school last September.
To promote local food production, the Ministry of Agriculture has established a strategy with WFP and other partners to forge strong links between the school feeding programme and groups of small farmers. "Buying locally is one of the government’s priorities”, explains Michel Chancy, Secretary of State of Haiti on livestock production. "In this way, school canteens also generate local income”. Several thousand metric tons of rice and maize meal have been bought from Haitian producers since the earthquake. More than 800,000 bottles of milk purchased from small farmers have been distributed to schools in 2011. Over the next three years, WFP plans to buy four million additional bottles.
Even before 2010, the nutritional status of younger children and that of their mothers and pregnant women was a source of serious concern.The earthquake had made an explosion of malnutrition in their ranks a fearsome spectre. "This haunted us, but it turned out that the distribution of specialized products to prevent and fight malnutrition helped avert a food crisis amongst the most vulnerable", explains Paola Dos Santos, head of the nutrition unit of WFP in Haiti.
Since then, WFP targets its nutrition interventions to provide the right food at the right time to give children the best possible start in life. Identifying signs of malnutrition is critical for pregnant women, nursing mothers and their children. In 2011, close to 240,000 women and children received fortified food to prevent or combat malnutrition, in nearly 400 health centres across the country.
"Today is distribution day. We expect roughly 200 people", says Dr Margaret Mallet at the clinic she runs at the camp of Aviation, in Port au Prince. Here, thousands of victims of the earthquake are still living under tarpaulins and plastic sheets. “I come here because I am breastfeeding my three-month old daughter”, explains Youvely Simon, a 31 year-old mother. “They give me flour (the mixture of fortified corn and soybeans and micronutrient powders), oil and sugar. My house collapsed. I have no job and no money to rebuild it”.
In the course of the year, WFP has also continued to support some 57,000 food-insecure Haitians living with HIV or tuberculosis, and their families. Food assistance is designed to help increase adherence to medical treatment and to reduce the impact of income loss of patients to their families.
In 2011, a large part of the financial contributions to WFP was injected into the local economy. At the request of the Haitian government WFP created more than 200,000 temporary jobs in Cash and Food for Work programmes. Workers were paid in food, cash or a combination of both. These programmes have directly improved the food security of over one million Haitians.
In Carrefour, a suburb of the capital badly damaged by the earthquake, Magdala Jean Pierre is the head of Mouvman Fanm Aktif Kafou (Women's Movement of Carrefour). She helped revive the dusty streets, organising residents with a large rubble removal project, funded by WFP and supported by local authorities. "We wanted to clear the area and help families resume a normal life", says Magdala. Every day for 10 months, hundreds of workers were paid 200 Gourdes ($US 5), the equivalent of the minimum wage decreed by the government. At an intersection, three young men recognise Magdala and run over to meet her. Since the end of the project in July 2011, they have not found work. Seeing her inspecting the streets, they thought it was a good news. "Every day people come to me and ask if there is any new work”, tells Fedelyne Fenelus, who was employed as a team leader. "When the programme stopped, they said: ‘Madame, we’re dead!’. I don’t know what they do to survive.” These poor families have been particularly affected by the rise in food prices over the last year. While there is food available in the markets, many people cannot afford to buy it. The purchasing power of the population fell by about 10% in 2011. “It is endangering the recovery efforts”, says Myrta Kaulard, WFP Representative in Haiti.
Working in collaboration with the Directorate of Civil protection, the WFP-led Logistics and Emergency Telecommunications clusters have also provided services for transportation, storage, and communications to the entire humanitarian community. "We are also transferring know-how to local institutions like the Civil Protection, so that in the future, they can help the affected population themselves without seeking outside help," says Edmondo Perrone, coordinator of the Logistics cluster for Haiti. .
After the earthquake, donations of food and money to WFP provided by governments and private donors made it possible to respond to the emergency and to put in place sustainable programs to fight hunger in Haiti. “The authorities have demonstrated a strong commitment to irreversibly fight in favour of food and nutritional security”, explains Myrta Kaulard, WFP Representative in Haiti. “The friends of Haiti need to continue to support them.”