Relief organizations step up programs to deliver food in Haiti

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WORLD NEWS HAITI 59 RAThe 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 and left immense destruction and tragedy in its wake has prompted numerous relief efforts around the world. The World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization worldwide, has already delivered 86 tons of food to Haiti, and hopes to acquire and deliver fourteen million ready-to-eat meals over the next few days. While the scale of the operation for all organizations delivering aid is enormous, the WFP had been operational in Haiti before the earthquake.
“The WFP already had a stronghold in Haiti, which meant that when this disaster happened we were in a good position to begin delivering emergency assistance very quickly because we had around 200 staff members already working in Haiti,” said Graham Bell, Youth Outreach Coordinator for the WFP.
The WFP currently has four food distribution points in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, and more are planned to open in the following week. With the amount of devastation, however, setting up the distribution points itself has been quite difficult.
“Essentially the city and everywhere in Port-au-Prince is devastated by the earthquake,” Bell said. “People sleep on the streets and it’s very congested, so it’s not easy to organize in those situations. We’re dealing with people who have lost everything, who don’t have healthcare, who don’t have running water, who are pretty much desperate, and they’ve lost relatives. Our job is to try and to deliver food to the people who need it as quickly as possible. It’s not an easy task with the lack of infrastructure and the confusion amongst the population. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Bell said the amount of food that the WFP is delivering now just within Port-au-Prince is than it was across the entire nation before the earthquake.
“We had warehouses and stock, but with the situation the way it is the usual operation can’t help in the way that it did,” Bell said. “And now, in the aftermath of the earthquake, it’s looking to feed two million earthquake survivors for the next six months. Prior to that in the whole of Haiti, about 1.8 million people were in need of food aid, and now we’re looking at 2 million just in the area of the earthquake.”
“The port itself is still closed and probably will be operational again early next week,” Bell said. “We [the WFP] had an extensive operation before, so we do have channels to get food in to people. The main emergency right now is food and water, and so all our efforts right now are aimed at making sure that we have more distribution points around in the places where they’re needed.”
Other organizations, such as the Free Rice website, which is owned by the World Food Programme, are also focusing their efforts on donating rice to Haiti, although prior to the earthquake they generally gave more rice to countries where it was a staple food.
“We have put into place mechanisms that Free Rice uses that assist the Haiti crisis situation as well,” Bell said.
Schools across the country can also join the worldwide aid contribution efforts. The World Food Programme has set up a special campaign for students and for schools called Students Helping Haiti. The page dedicated to the campaign can be found at the URL http://www.wfp.org/Haitian-student.
“The whole idea is that schools who are raising money for Haiti can sign up and say they want to be a part of it,” Bell said. “At which point we put their name into the donation page and the schools can donate money as it comes in and keep a total of what they’ve donated, and all of that money goes to emergency food aid for Haiti.”

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