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Haiti: Women Take Lead As Food Coupons System Rolls Out

As WFP’s food coupon system ensures delivery of two weeks of rice rations, women are always at the front of the line at the 16 fixed distribution points in the Haitian capital. It’s part of a system that ensures the weakest don’t get left behind.

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Natalie, a 26-year-old mother of three, grips her food coupon firmly as she stands in the queue on the dusty field of makeshift tents, waiting to pick up a 25-kilogram bag of rice. Last month's earthquake devastated her home. It also deprived her and her husband of their main source of income.  

“My husband was a professor, but now he has no school to teach at since it was flattened. I don’t know what I would do without this food,” said Natalie, who has aspirations to be a make-up artist.

In scaling up its food distribution to quake survivors, WFP is targeting primarily female heads of household, as women are usually the first to be pushed out of line if people get hungry and desperate at food distributions. The women are the ones who get the coupons to collect food for the family and they alone are allowed into the distribution compound.

Countless made homeless

“My mother died in the earthquake. I have no food,” says Bealta, 24, another woman waiting in line near the impoverished neighbourhood known as Cité Soleil, where countless thousands have been made homeless. Bealta said she intended to go off immediately to see if she could find some vegetables to cook with the rice.

The women are encouraged to bring male family members or friends to wait for them outside the distribution compound, to protect them and help them take their food home.

WFP is aiming to deliver around 10,000 of the 25-kg rice rations at each site over the next two weeks, reaching nearly 2 million people. Working through the local authorities and with its NGO partners, who help operate the distribution sites, WFP is seeking to reach all those people in Port-au-Prince affected by the earthquake.

Distribute coupons

Community leaders – under the guidance of  the Haitian authorities – have visited various neighbourhoods to distribute coupons which would entitle families to two-week rations of rice.

WFP also worked closely with the local authorities in the city on a public information campaign, to let the tens of thousands of homeless and desperate people know how the new system would work and to reassure them that no one would be left behind.