UN provides rescue package for Haiti’s storm-hit farmers
Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Megan Rowling
LONDON, England (AlertNet) – The United Nations said on Monday it will provide a $10.2 million rescue package for Haitian farmers, as high prices and food shortages in the wake of this year’s deadly storms threaten to worsen malnutrition.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – a UN agency that aims to eradicate rural poverty in developing countries – will provide the financing to support more than 240,000 small farmers in Haiti. They will receive agricultural inputs including vegetable and cereal seeds, manioc, sweet potato and banana plants.
In August and September, four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the Caribbean nation, killing more than 800 people and leaving nearly 1 million homeless or in dire need of help. The fierce hurricane season has set back efforts to combat poverty in a country where people were already struggling with a sharp rise in food prices.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that, over the past four years, food prices have increased by an average of 18 percent annually, affecting staples like rice, maize, beans and oil.
The storms have made matters worse, spreading food insecurity and leaving an estimated 2.3 million people in need of food aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA warned on Friday that "many more" Haitians might need food aid if the government is not given help to rebuild the agricultural sector.
John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. AFP PHOTO
Following September’s hurricanes, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $4.3 million for urgent humanitarian needs. An additional $4 million was made available on Monday, following a visit to the storm-hit country by UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes, who described the emergency as "a major catastrophe" and one of Haiti’s biggest disasters.
Aid agencies have jointly appealed for $106 million to provide relief and recovery support over the next six months to hurricane survivors, but the international response has been sluggish, with only around $43 million committed by aid donors so far, according to OCHA.
The World Food Programme (WFP) says it has distributed rations to more than half a million people, including 280,000 in the storm-ravaged northern city of Gonaives. But many flood survivors complain they have not received enough food.
The $10 million grant from IFAD is being implemented through an FAO initiative launched in December 2007 to combat the impact of high food prices by providing assistance to poor smallholder farmers in around 80 countries.
In Haiti small farmers make up 80 percent of the agricultural workforce and many are facing severe under-nourishment, FAO said.
The agricultural rescue package is intended to boost local production this year and next, increase the availability of basic food products in the markets, and strengthen food security in the wider population, FAO said.