Haiti (FH/MNN) – Haiti can’t catch a break. A massive earthquake in 2010, back-to-back hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, drought and crop failure, has left the Caribbean nation reeling.
Dave Evans, Food For the Hungry’s (FH) U.S. President says the cumulative effect has been devastating. “The World Food Program estimates that there are 1.5 million Haitians that are facing severe hunger right now.”
Haiti’s already fragile food supply is in ruins. On top of that, there are an estimated 6.7 million people who are struggling to meet their own food needs. The most vulnerable are children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
However, FH is responding to this crisis. While some of the crops were killed by the drought, Evans notes, “There are many farmers that were able to plant and will soon be harvesting some of those crops, so that was a good thing. We also got involved in a distribution of rabbits, goats and guinea pigs to needy families, and also food packs that we did in collaboration with a group called ‘Something to Eat’.”
In partnership with Something to Eat, FH has distributed high-protein, vitamin-fortified meals to malnourished children and children under age 2. FH health and nutrition staff identify the most vulnerable children for food distributions. The program is taking place in Belledere and nearby communities on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Additionally, FH has provided goats and rabbits for families to breed. Families receive animals with training on animal husbandry and marketing. As animals breed, owners sell the offspring and gain income to buy food in local markets. This supplementary income is essential for surviving the food crisis.
According to the Haitian government, the price of staple foods such as rice, maize, sorghum, has risen by up to 30 percent over the past year. However, three-quarters of Haiti’s population of 10 million live on less than $2 a day and many Haitians spend the bulk of their income on food.
“Food is available for purchase locally,” Evans remarks. “But escalating prices for food staples are out of reach for the vast majority of poor farming families. These households are now faced with the double burden of poor harvests from their farms and the rising cost of food in the marketplace. It’s a very serious situation.”
Emergency food is distributed by FH in partnership with Something to Eat, an organization that recruits U.S. church youth groups and other groups to pack emergency food packets for shipment to food insecure countries. The food distributed to date was pre-positioned in the region in case of a crisis in Haiti or the Dominican Republic.
“An amazing part of this story is that the food was packaged by teenagers, impassioned by hunger issues, who personally raised the money to make it happen,” said Mike King, President/CEO of Youthfront, who organizes Something to Eat.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt and author of To Stir a Movement, who has organized Something to Eat packing events, commented on the relief activity saying, “This is exactly the kind of need we want to meet. Our goal is to get healthy food into the hands of the most vulnerable in the face of crisis. Now the challenge is to see this through till the crisis is over.”
FH plans to do more food and animal distributions this month. Evans says, “Prayer is absolutely critical, I think, for the staff where they’re working, for the churches that are trying to reach out to people in need in their own church, as well as their own community-at-large, and then the other is really funding. That is our biggest need right now. With that cash, we will be able to meet some more immediate needs until the harvest comes in.” He goes on to say that any funding that comes in now will help purchase the supplies needed for the upcoming planting season in October.
The focus of FH’s development work in Haiti includes child survival, education, sustainable farming, disaster risk reduction and church strengthening, he adds. “You do have an army of Christians who are reaching out. We primarily do it through local churches. There’s a church in every community that we work in. in fact, many (churches) , usually. They are able to be salt and light in their situation.”
And that, Evans concludes, is how you can pray. “Throughout all of this period, again, of testing and trial for the Haitian population, that people would recognize that their hope should be built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Founded in 1971, Food for the Hungry provides emergency relief and long-term development programs with operations in more than 20 countries to help the world’s most vulnerable people. Learn more by visiting www.fh.org.