Haiti Faces Major Food Crisis as Planting Season Nears, UN Says

February 12, 2010, 03:50 PM EST

By Bill Varner

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Haiti faces a major food crisis due to a lack of support for farmers who begin planting in March for a harvest that usually produces 60 percent of the nation’s grains, fruits and vegetables, the United Nations said.

“We are alarmed at the lack of support,” Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agricultural Organization said after meeting today in Rome with Haitian Agriculture Minister Joanas Gue and heads of the World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The FAO has received only 8 percent of $23 million sought for seeds, fertilizer and tools to enable farmers to plant their crops next month, the agency said. At the same time, the UN has pledges for 95 percent of the $575 million in aid requested after the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left 1 million homeless.

Haitians consume about 1 million tons of cereals a year, 37 percent of which are grown locally, the FAO said.

“The economic and social reconstruction of Haiti requires a revival of food production and massive investment in rural areas,” Diouf said.

Margareta Wahlstrom, who is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, expressed concern for long-term reconstruction priorities. It will take at least a decade to rebuild damaged schools, hospitals and infrastructure, she said.

“Haiti is in a vulnerable situation due to the upcoming rainy and hurricane seasons,” Wahlstrom said. “There is great urgency now to give particular attention to structural safety for temporary schools, hospitals and camp settlements. Camps must be built in safe locations with resistant materials and adequate drainage systems to be able to withstand the next hurricane season.’

Wahlstrom said 10 percent of the estimated $10 billion reconstruction effort should focus on reducing Haiti’s vulnerability to disasters, including hurricanes.


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