Four months after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left over a million homeless in Haiti, World Food Programme (WFP) Director Josette Sheeran said the country was “not out of the woods yet”.
During a press conference in the Haitian capital Port au Prince, Sheeran announced a scale-up of cash and food for work projects, as well as the distribution of school meals and nutrition programmes to help Haitians recover from what she described as “an epic tragedy”.
“In this programme (food and cash programme) we are giving a combination of food and cash, to balance the needs of the economy and, in relations to the local food supplies” Sheeran said, adding that around two million people would benefit from the projects.
The WFP director also emphasised the importance of contributing to the Haitian economy through one of its most prominent industries; food production.
Sheeran said WFP is buying a limited amount of food products from local farmers in order to support the country’s economy.
The organisation has started buying small quantities, but it will increase its purchases over the next few months, Sheeran noted.
Haiti’s government is asking the international community for US$722 million for agriculture as part of an overall request of US$11.5 billion for recovery following the January the 12 earthquake that shattered the capital.
That includes money to fix the estimated US$31 million worth of quake damage to agriculture, but much more for future projects restoring Haiti’s dangerous and damaged watersheds, improving irrigation and infrastructure, and training farmers and providing them with better support.
Haitian President Rene Preval, an agronomist from the rice-growing Artibonite Valley, is also calling for food aid to be stopped in favour of agricultural investment.
Today Haiti depends on the outside world for nearly all of its sustenance.