During the global hunger crisis following World War II, former president Herbert Hoover said to Americans, "If your neighbors and their children were hungry, you would instantly invite them to a seat at your table. These starving women and children are in foreign countries, yet they are hungry human beings – and they are also your neighbors. Could you not imagine one of these helpless women or children as an invisible guest at your table?"
Today, that invisible guest is one of the millions of people in Haiti in need of food and other aid following a devastating earthquake. The United Nations World Food Programme and other charities will need every possible bit of help to relieve the suffering of so many.
Devastation in Haiti following the massive earthquake (WFP/Alejandro Lopez Chicheri)
Food distribution began on Wednesday when the World Food Programme (WFP) reached 3,000 Haitians in the southern town of Jacmel. On Thursday, WFP reached 2,900 people in three areas of Port-au-Prince with a high population concentration.
Ready-to-eat meals, such as high energy biscuits, are being utilized at this emergency stage. These food items are easier to distribute and require no cooking. With the destruction in Haiti, there would be no way to cook meals for a relief effort at this point. Governments are being urged to donate as many ready-to-eat meals as possible.
WFP announced today that following the ready-to-eat meals phase of the operation, basic items such as rice, pulses (grains) and cooking oil will be distributed.
"We are mobilising all available resources to provide urgently needed food assistance as part of a swift and coordinated recovery effort," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.
WFP has started a massive effort to assist millions of vulnerable Haitians. 3,000 people were assisted in Jacmel the day after the earthquake. Currently staff is operating from a parking lot in the airport. (WFP/Alejandro Lopez Chicheri)
Critical to this effort is the support of people across the globe willing to donate to ensure there are adequate food supplies. This is just the beginning of a six-month emergency operation being planned by the World Food Programme. WFP is appealing for US$279 million dollars to feed two million people over this time period.
After the emergency stage, WFP will began to work with Haitians on food for work projects aimed at rebuilding the country. Haiti is going to need a steady stream of food over what will be a lengthy recovery process. Donations to the World Food Programme or the Friends of the World Food Program are vital.
You can also get involved by spreading the word or helping your state's WFP committee. Some of the other charities providing aid are Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, World Vision, Mercy Corps, and Food for the Poor. An entire list is available at interaction.org.
We have seen and overcome great disasters before. One of the legacies of the greatest generation of World War II was aiding the war-torn countries.
Food and material aid was the foundation for their recovery. It was one of the greatest peace achievements in history. A new legacy for this generation may just be starting with Haiti.
A WFP beneficiary in Port-au-Prince (2009) (WFP/Anne Poulsen)