Statement on Haiti earthquake from Jacques Diouf

Food security and agriculture will be top priorities for FAO

15 January 2010, Rome - I am deeply shocked and saddened at the suffering and devastation of apocalyptic proportions we are witnessing in Haiti following Tuesday’s earthquake.

FAO expresses its full solidarity and commitment to international efforts to help the Haitian people and nation get back on its feet. This is a tragedy for Haiti. FAO has a long history of working in Haiti and this is a catastrophe that touches us profoundly.

My thoughts go to all people in Haiti who are suffering at this moment or who have lost loved ones. I am also very sad that the United Nations has lost many staff in the earthquake, colleagues in the UN peacekeeping mission and from many UN agencies.

My thoughts and sympathy are with their families. 

Many of FAO’s staff were lucky to escape with their lives. We are still trying to locate the personnel of FAO in Port-au-Prince that are still missing. Every effort is being made to trace them under extremely difficult circumstances, with very weak communications.

In the joint international rescue and assistance efforts FAO will be part of the UN team now preparing to leave for Haiti. It will be FAO’s job to assess the damage done to the agricultural sector and assess the impact of the earthquake on food security in the poverty stricken nation that already had the highest level of malnutrition of any country in the Western Hemisphere.  

FAO will also play its role fully in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts over the next weeks and months. We will continue assisting with food production in Haiti so that the devastating effects of the earthquake do not increase hunger in the capital and elsewhere.

There is also an urgent need to restore small-scale agricultural infrastructure and create urban agricultural projects to provide nourishment, hope and therapy for the victims.  

Priority in the short run is on life saving, health and shelter.  FAO will be present and active in the work in Haiti to prepare for food security as soon as rescue activities allow it and to prepare for the next agriculture season starting in March 2010. 

Photo: AFP/Thony Belizaire
"Suffering and devastation of apocalyptic proportions."