UN food agency begins major scale up of aid to earthquake victims in Haiti

30 January 2010

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today began ramping up its operations in Haiti by opening 16 fixed food distribution sites offering supplies to some 2 million people affected by the massive earthquake in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Up until now the nature of this emergency has forced us to work in a 'quick and dirty' way simply to get food out,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

Characterizing the emergency relief operation in Haiti ¬- struck by a 7.0-magnitude tremor on 12 January - as the most complex ever faced by the agency, Ms. Sheeran said that the 16 fixed sites are an important step towards achieving food stability.

“This distribution system will not only allow us to reach more people, it will give us the qualitative step we need to facilitate the delivery of all kinds of humanitarian assistance in the weeks and months to come,” stressed Ms. Sheeran.

The distribution sites aim to reach over 2 million people during a two-week period under the leadership of the Haitian Government, and in coordination with the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the US military, and a group of key non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The scale-up of the operation begins today with distributions of coupons to families across Port-au-Prince, and the first distributions will take place at all 16 sites on Sunday, continuing for 15 days.

Each family will receive a 25 kilogramme ration of rice, with only women being allowed into distribution sites to collect their share. WFP and its partners will work with the local authorities to ensure that men in need of assistance are not excluded.

Separate from this new operation, distributions to those affected by the earthquake currently living outside Port-au-Prince will continue, as will specialist support to hospitals and orphanages.

WFP's response has been hampered by the almost complete decimation of the city's infrastructure, the destruction of the supply chain to move food and other supplies into and around the country, and the huge scale of need.

Despite all these obstacles, WFP said it has reached nearly 600,000 people with over 16 million meals since the earthquake struck.

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