The United Nations food relief agency Tuesday warned that more than 1.5 million Haitians could remain at risk of food insecurity well into 2013 if they do not receive adequate assistance to recover from a series of natural disasters that have hit the country over the past six months, including a drought, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy.
"At the moment, one of our biggest worries is in areas that are still isolated after Hurricane Sandy, where women and children face worsening nutrition," said the UN World Food Programme's (WFP) Director in Haiti, Myrta Kaulard. "At the same time, it is crucial to help Haitian farmers so that they can plant crops for the small December season and for the main agricultural season in the spring."
Beginning as a tropical storm in late October in the Atlantic Ocean and then evolving as it progressed, Hurricane Sandy grew into what some media reports described as a "once in a generation" storm, causing death and destruction across the Caribbean region and the eastern seaboard of the United States. In Haiti alone, 54 people died, and hundreds of thousands of people were hit by floods and heavy winds.
WFP responded by distributing food to some 14,000 people during the first week after Hurricane Sandy struck. In a news release, it added that it would continue to assist 20,000 of the worst-affected households, with almost 800 tons of food during the month of November.
The agency also stressed that its activities in the Caribbean nation would focus on preventing and treating malnutrition for 100,000 women and children, as well as on 'Cash for Assets' projects to provide income to 170,000 people working on rehabilitation of agricultural land, flood control and watershed managements, among other activities.
An estimated $19 million will be needed to fund these programmes, which will be carried out in conjunction with the Haitian Government, partner non-governmental organizations and other UN agencies including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), WFP noted.
"Our donors' support is crucial not only to ensure that we maintain our emergency response capacity in Haiti, but also to support rural people to get back on their feet quickly," said Kaulard. "Without immediate cash contributions, the situation of these rural households will continue deteriorating until the next main crop in mid-2013."