"This distribution system will not only allow us to reach more people, it will give us the qualitative step we need to facilitate the delivery of all kinds of humanitarian assistance in the weeks and months to come. The 16 fixed sites are an important step towards food stability." WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran
ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme has today begun a major scaling up of its operation with the start of the first systematic food distribution programme to reach people affected by the Haiti earthquake.
Under the leadership of the Haitian government, and in coordination with the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the US military, and a group of key non-governmental organisations, WFP is rolling out distributions at 16 fixed sites across the Haitian capital, with the aim of reaching over two million people during a two-week period.
"WFP is working with all of its partners to mobilise a regular flow of food to reach all of those devastated by the earthquake," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran from Rome. "It is the most complex challenge we have ever confronted, but this distribution system will not only allow us to reach more people, it will give us the qualitative step we need to facilitate the delivery of all kinds of humanitarian assistance in the weeks and months to come. The 16 fixed sites are an important step towards food stability. "
The scale-up of the operation will begin on Saturday with distributions of coupons across the city, and families will be targeted in coordination with local authorities. The first distributions will then take place at all 16 sites on Sunday, and continue for 15 days.
Each family will receive a 25 kilogramme ration of rice, with only women being allowed into distribution sites to collect their share. WFP and its partners will work with the local authorities to ensure that men in need of assistance are not excluded.
"Up until now the nature of this emergency has forced us to work in a `quick and dirty´ way simply to get food out. This new system will allow us to provide food assistance to more people, more quickly through a robust network of fixed distribution sites. The entire humanitarian family and the military forces on the ground in Haiti have come together to make this possible," said Sheeran.
Separate from this new operation, distributions to those affected by the earthquake currently living outside Port-au-Prince will continue, as will specialist support to hospitals and orphanages.
WFP's response has been hampered by the almost complete decimation of the city´s infrastructure, the destruction of the supply chain to move food and other supplies into and around the country, and the huge scale of need. The congested, densely populated urban setting has also presented the humanitarian effort with a huge challenge.
Despite all these obstacles, WFP has reached nearly 600,000 people with over 16 million meals since the earthquake struck.