Almost daily I am forwarded email messages from people in Haiti desperately needing help. I send these quickly to contacts at different aid agencies. These are just a few of many cries for help coming from Haiti.
Lane Hartill of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) told me, “We're doing our best. We're getting hundreds of requests.”
Food and supplies are reaching many people through dedicated groups like Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Poor, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But so much more is needed to help Haiti through the worst disaster the country has ever faced.
There are pockets of progress amid the difficulty. Catholic Relief Services carried out a successful food distribution in Pétionville, which included 15-day rations. One of the orphanages WFP included in its deliveries last week is doing so well that "Kids are healthy, bored because no school."
WFP just announced the opening of 16 fixed distribution sites in Port-au-Prince and hopes to reach over 2 million people in the coming days. The WFP director, Josette Sheeran, says, "The 16 fixed sites are an important step towards food stability…The entire humanitarian family and the military forces on the ground in Haiti have come together to make this possible."
Before this escalation in food aid, the World Food Programme says it has reached about 600,000 Haitians via 16 million meals. Foods like high-energy biscuits and ready-to-eat meals are critical for such an emergency where there is a lack of cooking facilities.
In Cincinnati, the company HeaterMeals recently dispatched truckloads with 1.3 million meals ready-to eat. This food is part of a Red Cross donation to the World Food Programme, which is handling the distribution in Haiti.
Boxes of meals ready-to-eat being prepared for shipment by HeaterMeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. The World Food Programme is distributing the meals in Haiti. (photo courtesy of Bob Turner/HeaterMeals)
Much more food will be needed. WFP requested 800 million dollars to feed 2 million Haitians for the rest of this year. So far, donations from governments and the private sector have amounted to about 200 million dollars.
Recently I wrote about the importance of cooperation at all levels in getting food to Haiti. Everyone from world leaders to a student can be a food ambassador for Haiti. It might be in the form of a fundraiser at a school, writing an article for a newspaper or blog, or a letter to your representative in government. These kinds of efforts, which are taking place nationwide, give hope for Haiti.
Just look at some of the accomplishments. The World Food Programme has raised at least 3.5 million in online donations, and this number increases daily. The Friends of the World Food Program are also doing online fundraising to further support WFP.
The Hope for Haiti telethon, which raised over 60 million, will provide additional funds. WFP, as one of seven agencies benefiting, will receive at least 9 million dollars for food relief. Hope for Haiti fundraising continues to grow. The initial distribution of funds is scheduled to begin the first week of February.
Leogane, west of Port-Au-Prince, is close to the epicentre of the earthquake.
Copyright: WFP/David Orr
The giving of donations by the public hearkens back to the spirit of the greatest generation, such as in 1946 when an anonymous man in Cincinnati, Ohio donated an entire paycheck to food relief for World War II devastated nations. That moment was one of the great stories that typified the peace effort following the war. Hundreds of millions were saved from hunger, and the continent of Europe was rebuilt.
We are seeing that same spirit today. The generosity of the many people who are involved in the rescue of Haiti has been outstanding. It is hoped this will continue and not just for Haiti, but for the global hunger crisis afflicting 1 billion people. There have never been more people at one time suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It has also never been more clear what is the most vital issue for the international community to tackle.
Last year I interviewed Myrta Kaulard, the WFP director in Haiti, about impending food shortages for the country.
Myrta explained how WFP was providing school meals for 500,000 Haitian kids. This was a major food and education program for children and their families recovering from tropical storms, a hurricane, and even a high food price crisis.
Now what has happened to those children? If they survived the earthquake, will they make it through the aftermath? Our actions today and tomorrow can, to a large extent, control the latter.