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Urgent UN appeal for hurricane ravaged Haiti

FAO says US$10.5 million needed to help restart food production

Photo: Navy Visual News Service
An aerial view of the devastation in Port de Paix.
11 September 2008, Rome - With much of Haiti’s agricultural land under water following four major tropical storms, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today appealed for US$10.5 million to help rebuild farm livelihoods, restart food production and to fight the spread of animal diseases.

Before the recent series of storms, Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was already experiencing chronic food insecurity as a result of underlying poverty compounded by the global rise in food prices.

During the summer cropping season, FAO began an urgent intervention to boost agricultural production and improve local food availability. However, tropical storms Fay, Hanna, Gustav and Ike hit the country in rapid succession during the peak time of crop growth. As a result, the entire harvest of the current agricultural season was either lost or severely damaged.

Farmers need urgent assistance

The hurricanes had a significant impact on Haitian farmers and rural communities. More than 50 000 families lost access to their usual food supplies and to their means of subsistence.

Hunger and undernourishment will be worse in the months ahead if displaced rural households do not have the means to return to their agricultural lands. According to FAO, for agricultural production to continue, it is essential that immediate assistance reaches farming households that have lost their livelihoods.

FAO is seeking funding to provide help to Haiti’s agriculture sector in three areas:

• Distribution of planting material, tools and small farm animals.

• Rebuilding the country’s irrigation network to ensure that agricultural production can recover in time for the next cropping seasons. This assistance will employ Haitians affected by the disaster, providing them with an immediate source of income.

• Emergency assistance to fight the spread of animal diseases and reduce the risk of post-flood deaths among livestock.

Ongoing assessments in Haiti indicate that damage to the agriculture sector is significant and widespread throughout nine of ten departments.

Infrastructure destroyed; farm animals drowned

Standing maize, sorghum, bean, cassava and sweet potato crops, as well as banana plantations have been destroyed by floods, erosion and landslides. More than 2 000 head of livestock have drowned and kilometres of irrigation and drainage systems, as well as rural infrastructure, need to be rebuilt.

In much of the island state, power lines and roads have also been destroyed, further complicating the recovery of farming and agricultural marketing.

It is feared that the ongoing damage assessment will reveal a catastrophic situation in the agriculture sector, which would be particularly threatening for small farmers and have important consequences on the availability of food for the population.

FAO’s call for funding is part of a larger, UN-wide appeal for funds to help Haiti recover from the recent series of storms.

John Riddle
Media Relations, FAO/London
(+44) 7804786942

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