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Haiti: UN and authorities seek $74 million to help farm sector recover from Hurricane Sandy

Haitians affected by Hurricane Sandy wait for food assistance.
WFP/Elio Rujano
Haitians affected by Hurricane Sandy wait for food assistance.

Haiti: UN and authorities seek $74 million to help farm sector recover from Hurricane Sandy

The United Nations food agency and the Haitian Government are seeking to raise $74 million over the next 12 months to help the country’s agricultural sector recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Caribbean nation two weeks ago.

“The recent natural disasters in Haiti require the robust response of the international community to support ongoing Government efforts,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Senior Emergency Coordinator in Haiti, Adam Yao, said in a news release.

According to FAO, the so-called “super-storm” caused significant damage to Haiti’s crops, land, livestock, fisheries and rural infrastructures, leaving more than 600,000 Haitians at risk of food and nutrition insecurity. It also killed 60 people and flooded, destroyed or damaged some 18,000 homes, as well as hospitals, schools and public buildings.

Hurricane Sandy was the third disaster to hit Haiti in the space of a few months. Between May and June, a severe drought struck at the beginning of the critical spring cropping season, and in August, Tropical Storm Isaac battered the country, displacing thousands of people.

The combined impact of the three disasters on the agricultural sector has been estimated by the Government at $254 million, affecting the livelihoods of 1.5 million people, FAO noted in the news release.

Of the total funding sought, it added, $4 million is needed to provide immediate assistance to 20,000 families so they can make it through the winter cropping season starting in December.

UN agencies and their partners are currently conducting post-disaster assessments to present a wider picture of the damage and needs for agriculture and food security so an appropriate response can be put in place.

However, FAO said some places in the south of the country – such as the South East and Grand Anse zones – are still largely isolated due to massive destruction of roads. In these places, the agency, along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), will conduct helicopter surveys.

In addition, the UN humanitarian country team, the so-called Donors’ Group Supporting Haiti and the Government are discussing the discussing ways to respond to the crisis in the immediate, medium- and long-term, as well as addressing root causes of the country’s vulnerability to recurrent natural disasters.

FAO said its programmes on forestry, livestock production, watershed management and nutrition could all be scaled up and adapted to address the needs following Hurricane Sandy in accordance to the Government’s plan.

Meanwhile, addressing reporters in Geneva today, a WFP spokesperson, Elisabeth Byrs, said that the agency is currently providing high energy biscuits to nearly 13,000 people in temporary shelters in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and in the Artibonite department in the country’s north.

WFP also started to distribute 21 days worth of food rations to 100,000 people living in affected areas - Ms. Byrs noted that WFP would need more than $20 million to fund food assistance for 425,000 people.

The food relief agency will also provide assistance to 500,000 people in Cuba, where Hurricane Sandy affected more than a million people. The assistance, Ms. Byrs said, will be concentrated around Santiago de Cuba and Holguin – the second and third most largely populated provinces – which were the hardest hit by the Hurricane Sandy.

The hurricane also destroyed 12,700 tonnes of food stock and ruined close to 425,000 hectares of cultivated land, which included sugar cane and plantains. Ms. Byrs said WFP would continue to work closely with the Cuban Government to provide staple food for citizens.