Haiti: WFP pushes ahead to scale up food distributions

As emergency food distributions continue in quake-stricken Haiti, WFP is scaling up all areas of its operations and reconnaissance flights have been identifying the best sites to distribute more assistance over the coming days.

Several reconnaissance flights took place on Friday and Saturday and were followed up by on-the-ground inspections of possible locations for distributions. Given the security and logistical issues involved in transporting and distributing food in the devastated Haitian capital, sites must be carefully selected. Military escorts by UN peacekeepers are also needed.

By Saturday evening, WFP had supplied ready-to-eat food rations to at least 60,000 people. The UN food agency started distributing food within 24 hours of the earthquake striking and plans to reach 2 million as part of its recently approved emergency operation.

"We are mobilising all available resources to provide urgently needed food assistance as part of a swift and coordinated recovery effort," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

Flash appeal

As part of a wider UN appeal launched on Friday, WFP is appealing for US$279 million to cover the food assistance part of the global humanitarian operation in Haiti. The money is also to cover the necessary logistical support for a 6-month Emergency Operation.

In order to help it reach 2 million people, WFP has asked its donor governments to offer excess stocks of ready-to-eat meals for use in the Haiti emergency.

WFP will also try to establish food kitchens in Port-au-Prince to provide prepared foods to the hungry. These measures are necessary as many houses have been destroyed, and people have no access to cooking facilities.

Well positioned

Distributions began on Wednesday 13 January in the town of Jacmel for some 3,000 people. On Thursday we distributed food in both Jacmel and in three parts of Port-au-Prince for 2,900 people. Further food distributions took place on Friday and there will be more in coming days. Get the latest on the operation

WFP is well positioned to respond to the emergency as it already has stocks of food pre-positioned in the country. But the logistical obstacles are still considerable.

The airport is heavily congested; aviation fuel is in short supply and planes attempting to land have been held in holding patterns for up to two hours. The airport in neighbouring Dominican Republic is also becoming congested. WFP is actively exploring alternative routes to bring food assistance into Haiti, by road and sea.

WFP has established a logistics hub in neighbouring Dominican Republic and is acquiring logistical assets that will help deliver assistance without unduly impacting on the country's crippled logistics infrastructure.

Two convoys from Dominican Republic managed to get across border into Haiti on Thursday and arrived at Port-au Prince by early evening - estimated travel time is 12-18 hours.