Haiti still facing a crisis

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, September 26, 2008 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it has provided enough food to feed half a million of the people in Haiti affected by recent hurricanes – half of them in the most affected city, Gonaives, which remains accessible only by air and ship – but there are concerns that efforts by various organisations and governments still do not meet the demand.

According to the WFP, more than 2,263 tonnes of rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh water and other supplies have been delivered across the country which suffered massive flooding by four successive storms since August.

“The rate of distribution is increasing all the time as conditions improve,” it said.

“Night-time distributions in Gonaives have now ended. Larger day distributions are now taking place, organised block by block or street by street, with each block electing a leader/spokesperson who then helps ensure cooperation with WFP and Care, Yele, local authorities and other partner NGOs,” the WFP said in a release.

But with the UN estimating that 800,000 people are still in need of emergency food aid, appeals continue to pour in for Haiti. The UN launched an inter-agency appeal on September 10 for US$107 million to help Haiti, but it said only a small percentage has so far been raised.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also called for urgent action to bring help to thousands of children suffering as a result of the devastation.

“Relief operations are moving towards the post-disaster recovery activities, but pressing humanitarian needs are yet to be met,” UNICEF said in an update on the situation in the impoverished Caribbean country, where an estimated 300,000 children are in need of aid. 
“Entire parts of the country remain inaccessible by road due to landslides and collapsed bridges.”

After Tropical Storm Fay killed at least 50 in mid-August, the onslaught of hurricanes began exactly a month ago when Hurricane Gustav hit Haiti, leaving thousands of people affected in the south of the country, particularly in Cité Soleil and the Departments of Sud and Sud-Est.

Just as the Haitians were receiving aid to help them recover from that battering, Hurricane Hanna made its presence felt at the beginning of this moth. Although it did not directly impact the island, the torrential rains left many parts of Haiti seriously flooded, particularly the northern coast of the country. The city of Gonaives was cut off for almost four days before the water receded enough for the first aid agencies to come through.

But it was only a few days later that Hurricane Ike brought more rain, marooning residents of Gonaives yet again, and further worsening the situation in the north and south of the island.