STAND UP

Interview with
Bill Lambers on Food for Haiti


by Jeffrey Hillard

February 2010


As RED! has covered previously, the World Food Programme focuses comprehensively on food distribution and nutritional relief. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, how did WFP respond?


The World Food Programme began distributing food within 24 hours of the earthquake. With the size of the disaster, they had to mobilize personnel from all around the globe to begin a huge emergency operation.

WFP quickly dispatched ready-to-eat foods to Haiti from its El Salvador hub. The main item was high-energy biscuits.  This is the type of food used in an emergency since they are easy to distribute and do not require cooking. With so much damage to airfields, ports and roads, WFP had to work on establishing supply lines to get the food to Haiti, not to mention distribute within the country.

 

Right now, how has the World Food Programme's effort to bring now-urgent nutritional needs to the Haitian people gone? Is the WFP experiencing any obstacles, bureaucratic or otherwise?

As of January 29th, WFP has distributed more than 16 million meals, to about 600,000 people.  You can follow the updates on this at http://www.wfp.org/crisis/haiti.

WFP and other aid agencies are facing huge challenges and obstacles. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest emergency WFP has ever dealt with. Aid is coming into Haiti and being distributed, but so much more is needed.

I get e-mails almost daily about different camps or orphanages that are not getting aid, which I forward on to WFP and other aid agencies. Less than two weeks ago, I received one about an orphanage which WFP quickly included in one of five pickups it had going out to orphanages on a recent Thursday.

WFP had staff and warehouses in the country before the earthquake struck. Many of the staff members lost their homes and the food warehouses were damaged. With roads covered with rubble, it is difficult to transport food and other supplies. Supply lines had to be repaired or new ones established.

 

Prior to the earthquake, how effective was the World Food Programme's tireless work toward helping to feed hundreds of thousands of Haitians, especially children ? [Many Haitian children have parents or loved ones that are, or have been incarcerated or detained.]

WFP had programs to help Haitians fight the poverty and natural disasters in their country. Before the earthquake, WFP was running a school feeding program for 500,000 children as part of the effort to establish a national program, which would eventually be run by the Haitian government.

Last year I interviewed Myrta Kaulard, the WFP director in Haiti, about impending food shortages for the country. (http://www.wfp.org/content/food-crisis-haiti-interview-myrta-kaulard-world-food-programme)

She explained that because of funding shortages, school feeding might be cut in 2010.  I think WFP programs served an important role in helping Haiti, but were not getting funding. Haiti had just been recovering from some devastating storms and hurricanes. Now they are suffering from the greatest disaster to hit their country.

 

Since the earthquake, has the WFP implemented any sort of new or revised short or long-term strategic plan to address the food issue in Haiti?

Just a week ago, WFP announced that it would need 800 million dollars to run a food relief operation for 2010. This would be one of its largest programs worldwide in terms of funding requirements. Right now, the focus is on getting ready-to-eat meals to Haitians, but this is slowly starting to expand to dry rations like rice and other staples.

WFP and Catholic Relief Services are working together to build humanitarian hubs. Eventually, WFP wants to start Food for Work projects to rebuild the country. This is where food is used as an incentive for Haitians to work on the reconstruction projects such as building new homes, schools and roads. Of course, down the road other projects like school feeding would certainly be resumed.

 

What should readers know about any current concerns the World Food Programme is trying to communicate or wanting the world to realize about the current dire living conditions in Haiti?

One WFP officer told me about a visit to Haiti a couple of weeks before the earthquake struck. She visited schools that were taking part in the WFP feeding program. Now just a few weeks later the earthquake strikes. So many people lost everything. Right now they need food, medicine, water, and shelter.

The food operation is massive, as I pointed out and explained in the videos. Even before this tragedy struck, WFP was facing a budget shortfall for many of its programs worldwide. There are over 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger, the highest number in history. In Sudan alone, they plan to feed 11 million people this year. There is a global hunger crisis that demands the attention of world leaders.

For Haiti, right now the best way people can help is by donating money to aid agencies like WFP, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, Sonje Ayiti, and others on the ground. Also, you can spread the word which will be vital for helping Haiti not just today, but over what will be a lengthy recovery process.   

You can donate to WFP’s food relief operation at www.wfp.org or www.friendsofwfp.org. At each site you can learn more about ways you can get involved in the fight against hunger in Haiti and around the globe.

If you have a blog, then please join Bloggers Against Hunger. http://www.wfp.org/bloggers-against-hunger

 

Bill Lambers — the World Food Programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Bill Lambers www.lamberspublications.com