PORT-AU-PRINCE --“I have lost tomatoes, beans and other crops on my three parcels,” says Marie-Laurette Remy, a small farmer who makes a living selling her harvest and now relies on the emergency food rations she received from the World Food Programme. “My fields were flooded when hurricane Sandy hit us.”
In a country where most of the rural population relies on agriculture and often cultivates small plots of land, climate shocks can leave entire families struggling to get food to eat.
Marie-Laurette Remy lives in Marigot, a small community in the South East of Haiti. In this community tucked between the sea and the mountain, water and mud came rushing down when Sandy hit at the end of October. Several houses were flooded. Crops and banana trees were washed away or buried under the mud. Here and in many other communities in the country, people like Marie-Laurette are picking up the pieces and trying to figure out how they will feed themselves and their families now that their main source of food and income is gone.
“It was clear immediately that emergency food assistance would be necessary for these families,” said Myrta Kaulard, WFP Representative in Haiti. “Many were already struggling to recover from two other weather shocks that had affected their crops in the past six months: A drought and hurricane Isaac.”
In the first week following the storm, WFP provided emergency food rations to 14,000 Haitians. In November, the agency continues to assist 60,000 of the worst-affected families with food including rice purchased locally from small holder farmers.
As roads and bridges were badly damaged by the hurricane, it became clear once again that maintaining stocks of food and humanitarian material in strategic locations throughout the country saves lives. Working in coordination with the Directorate for Civil Protection (DPC), WFP, other UN agencies and NGOs were able to provide much needed relief quickly.
Humanitarian needs are increasing in Haiti. An evaluation conducted after the passage of hurricane Isaac estimated that 1.5 million Haitians were coping with severe food insecurity. A new assessment is underway but initial findings indicate that as many as 20 percent of the population is now struggling to get enough food for their families.
To ensure the most vulnerable Haitians do not fall over the edge, WFP will continue to focus on the prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition for 100,000 women and children.
“The food that WFP is giving me today will help me get by for a few weeks and I am grateful for that,” said Tericia Jeudi after receiving her emergency ration of rice, beans, oil and salt from WFP in Marigot. Her five small plots of land were damaged by hurricane Sandy, although her house was spared.
“What I really want for the future is help to improve irrigation for my land so I can grow more food,” Jeudi added, echoing many farmers who had gathered to receive their emergency ration. WFP is beginning a new programme to help up to 170,000 people like Tericia Jeudi get better access to food by earning a salary while working at improving their land.
Myrta Kaulard says that it is crucial at this time to work with the authorities to help Haitians rehabilitate agricultural land. “At the same time, we have to keep our commitment to fight malnutrition and provide meals in schools,” she added.
“The guarantee of a meal at school, having access to specialized products to fight malnutrition, these are often the only safety nets that the poorest Haitians have access to.”
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