Everyone grab a pen, or get to a computer or phone so you can start your job as a "food ambassador" for Haiti.
Haiti needs food, both in this emergency stage and for the longer term of rebuilding their country. Those who survived the earthquake must not now become victims of hunger. Everyone can serve as a food ambassador to help Haiti.
In this day and age, almost anyone can make use of the vast multitude of media available to get a message out. You can write an article for a newspaper, post to a blog, or use social network sites to spread the word about donations to the UN World Food Programme to help feed Haiti. Or just make phone calls to friends and neighbors.
Herbert Hoover, who served as food ambassador during the hunger crisis after World War II, made great use of the media to spread his speeches. This was critical for gaining cooperation at home and abroad to build food supplies for the war-devastated countries. Hoover’s team even translated speeches into different languages to gain as much distribution as possible in various countries.
Today, this "sounding of the alarm" will be essential for the World Food Programme’s (WFP) fundraising efforts. They need the public's help. So far the response has been spectacular. Abby Ravera of WFP reports 3.5 million dollars in online donations, and this total is fast growing. A Students Help Haiti feature has been set up to encourage colleges and schools to get involved.
The Hope for Haiti telethon just set a record with at least 58 million dollars raised, of which about eight million will go to WFP. There are seven organizations, including WFP, that are splitting the proceeds of the telethon. Much more will be needed as WFP is requesting 279 million to fund a six-month emergency operation in Haiti. Governments have contributed close to 170 million with the United States, Canada, and Spain leading the way.
Citizen "food ambassadors" around the globe can also write to their governments about donating available supplies to Haiti. Herbert Hoover, on his worldwide tour after World War II, described getting help from countries like Egypt, Colombia, and Peru. Likewise, in 1947, President Truman's Cabinet Committee on World Food Programs also worked to achieve this kind of international cooperation in fighting hunger.
Not many countries were in a position to give much, but still contributed to the effort. This was crucial for providing food to war-torn Europe. As Secretary of State George Marshall said at that time, "Food is the very basis of all reconstruction." And going forward this will apply to Haiti as well.
Another aspect of being a food ambassador is to encourage coordination of food aid once it reaches the ground in Haiti. Countries and aid agencies must work together, in as effective a manner as possible, to distribute the food. Near the end of World War II, for instance, the United States had to coordinate with its allies on getting food to people on the brink of starvation in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. This meant stockpiling food and coordinating air drops and ground deliveries.
In post-war Austria, the U.S. military government helped coordinate the work of a number of different charities in the country. Those post-war years saw an all-star cast of agencies helping the people of Austria, including the Red Cross, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, and CARE. Coordination was key for helping reconstruction programs like school feeding for children. Haiti also needs an effective, coordinated aid response.
Millions of Haitians, with their country in rubble, are wondering each day will they get food, water, medical care, or just some decent shelter. Josette Sheeran of the World Food Programme says, "It is vital that the response from the global humanitarian community matches the immense needs of the people of Haiti."
Aid workers in Haiti are also facing very difficult conditions; many of them were personally affected by the earthquake. One of the WFP staff lost a family member, and other workers suffered injuries. Many aid workers lost their homes, but are putting their personal troubles aside to work non-stop to help Haitians who have all lost so much. Let’s ensure that the dedicated aid workers have the support they need to do their jobs.
It takes a team effort from all levels of society to tackle this enormous catastrophe. As Herbert Hoover said coordinating the response to global hunger in 1946, "if we can succeed in persuading every man and woman, every nation to do their utmost, we shall master this famine. And we shall save the lives of hundreds of millions from the greatest jeopardy in all the history of mankind. We shall have saved infinite suffering."
The U.S. and the world responded after World War II.
Will we do so today for Haiti?