Haiti: Take Home Rations Bring Relief to Drought-Hit Families
Although it is raining sporadically after an intense drought in early 2013 –which was preceded during 2012 by another drought before June, Tropical Storm Isaac in August and Hurricane Sandy in October—poor farmers in Baytourib, Plateau Central Department, find it difficult to start planting because they lack the money to buy seeds –which cost between USD7-7.50 per kilo-and plant for the next harvest season in July, which represents 60% of the country’s food production.
Poor Haitians families grow corn, sorghum, and beans in their gardens for their food consumption and sell the some extra food at the local market to get cash, but this has not been the case since late 2012. When poor farmers have no food reserves, they turn to tree felling and charcoal making, which is a negative coping mechanism traditionally used to obtain cash, but at the cost of deforestation and land degradation.
Women and small children are the most vulnerable to these climatic shocks. In this photo, Eunise Boniface, 28 years old and mother of five children, breastfeeds her 8-month-old girl, who is malnourished. Eunise said the drought had prevented her husband from planting seeds in their home garden and properly feeding her children.
To help families cope with food insecurity, WFP and the local NGO Bureau for Nutrition and Development (BND) are distributing take-home rations at health centres and schools. Here a group of women and their children wait for their take home rations, funded by the Government of Canada, at the Village de L’Espoir (Village of Hope) health center in Ganthier, Ouest Department.
The take home ration is made up of Super Cereal, Plumpy Sup, oil, sugar and salt. Super Cereal is a fortified corn-soya blend especially prepared for pregnant and lactating women while Plumpy Sup is a peanut-based ready-to-eat food for small children.
Mylande Bacome, a widow and mother of nine children, comes for her medical checkup and her take home ration once a month. “Before I began to receive my ration my baby was malnourished and skinny, but now she is doing well. She is playful and cheerful all the time,” she said. WFP is urgently requesting the international community to donate approximately USD 17 million to keep providing nutritional support to women like Mylande and her child.
While the pregnant women and their small children received their rations at the health centre (which can be seen in the background), More than 360 children enrolled at the Village of Hope School receive their take home rations. The boy in the photo is eating one of the High Energy Biscuits included in the ration.
School girls line up to receive their rations made up of beans, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, and High Energy Biscuits (HEB’s). “Classrooms are filled with students because their parents know their children will receive a food ration,” said Elias Clovis, Principal of the Village of Hope School. “Without these rations the classrooms would empty.”
These take home rations are also funded by the Government of Canada and distributed with the support of the Bureau of Nutrition and Development (BND), a local NGO and WFP’s implementing partner.
Louis Marie Michelle (with baseball cap) came to school to help her children carry home their rations. “These rations mean a lot to our family,” she said. “Due to the drought my husband cannot grow food in the garden to feed the family and sell in the market to get cash.”
“I’m a teacher in another school, but they don’t serve hot meals to the students or give take home rations, so I enrolled my children in the Village of Hope,” said Natasha Senat, 38 years old. “When you give food to the children in school, you feed the whole family,” said Natacha, who is going home with her children and the rations. WFP urgently needs some USD17 million to keep providing take rations and supplying other needs of Haiti’s most vulnerable population.
Following three consecutive weather shocks in 2012, the Government of Haiti declared 1.5 million Haitians as “extremely food insecure”, meaning they are unable to feed themselves unless they receive external food assistance. A new drought in 2013 worsen the situation for poor farmers and their families. WFP and local NGO partners are distributing take home rations to ease the burden of poor Haitians, but if no new funding is received, WFP’s operations and its beneficiaries will be severely affected.