Ella Brown started an internship at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) office in Washington, DC during January. Just as soon as her new job got started the massive earthquake struck in Haiti.
The most complex operation WFP has ever undertaken started to deliver life-saving food to millions of Haitians. Recently, Ella took time to answer some questions about her work as an intern at WFP. She talks about Haiti, the importance of media coverage of global hunger issues, and how you can get involved.
Your internship started at the time of the tragedy in Haiti. Tell us about when you first heard the news of the earthquake. What were some of the tasks you had to undertake, as a new member of WFP, once the earthquake struck?
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on the second day of my internship with the UN World Food Programme (WFP). So as you can imagine, these unfortunate circumstances are providing me a valuable opportunity to learn about humanitarian relief, which is the major part of WFP operations.
On February 1, makeshift kitchens like this one in Jacmel, Haiti helped WFP provide hot meals for 24,000 people. (World Food Programme photo)
As public affairs intern, I participated in a number of behind-the-scenes efforts around Haiti – ranging from assisting at a series of successful Haiti benefit concerts featuring WFP celebrity musical partner, Thievery Corporation, in Washington, DC – to monitoring news outlets for updates from Haiti.
As the largest and leading agency in humanitarian response with operations in over 70 countries, it is guaranteed that several articles each day mention WFP, its programs, and hunger-related issues. After the Haiti quake, news coverage of the earthquake totaled nearly two dozen stories per day. A month later, however, coverage of Haiti dropped way off, despite the fact that the needs of the homeless and their government are still enormous.
This is problematic because media coverage is critical to a disaster like Haiti’s for two reasons: First, WFP is not funded like other UN agencies. WFP relies on voluntary (as opposed to assessed) contributions to provide food assistance to victims of natural and man-made disasters. Second, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and its government will rely on external funding to re-create its structures and systems (even the U.S. accepted voluntary contributions from other nations following Hurricane Katrina).
The first media blast of the Haiti quake raised awareness and led to a generous outpouring from governments, businesses and individuals, but as WFP begins its second or recovery phase, more help is needed.