The head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Josette Sheeran, is set to arrive in earthquake-devastated Haiti on Thursday. In Port-au-Prince, she will meet with Haitians who are depending on WFP's food deliveries to survive.
Sheeran will also hold meetings with government and relief officials on the food aid effort. WFP chairs a "food cluster" which is meant to coordinate all food aid from coming into Haiti from various agencies and charities. This is vital for reducing congestion at ports and landing strips, distributing the food and avoiding overlap. Since the earthquake struck WFP has delivered a million rations to Haitians.
These food deliveries will be increasing. Sheeran said on Monday, "Within the next week, we aim to move the equivalent of 10 million ready-to-eat meals so that people whose homes have been destroyed, and who have no access to cooking facilities, can feed their families."
Sheeran arrives as a "food ambassador" for Haiti, trying to rally international support for feeding 2 million people. WFP is asking for US$279 million for what will be, at least, a 6-month emergency operation. Following her visit, Sheeran will head to Washington, D.C. to continue to build support for feeding Haiti.
WFP operations in Leogane, a town west of Port-au-Prince which was at the epicentre of the Jan 12 earthquake. (Copyright: WFP/David Orr)
Where does the fundraising stand right now? Governments have given US$150 million while the private sector has sent 18 million, including 3 million from online donations. The list of donors includes the United States, Denmark, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece, Australia, Colombia, and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.
The food relief effort is still in the ready-to-eat meals phase. Foods such as high energy biscuits offer the easiest and fastest way to get life saving sustenance to people. But soon more foods should become available such as rice, vegetable oil, dried beans and lentils. In addition, other special foods to help children's nutritional requirements are being gathered to send to Haiti. Kitchens and humanitarian hubs will also be set up throughout Port-au-Prince.
The Haiti emergency comes at a time when WFP is facing funding shortfalls for many of its programs worldwide. In Sudan alone WFP plans to feed 11 million people this year. Worldwide there are over 1 billion people suffering from hunger, more than any point in history.