Thursday, April 15, 2010

Haiti ... WFP raising money ... and getting the economics wrong!

Dear Colleagues

The following is from the website of the World Food Program (WFP). A lot of this makes sense, though it is unclear how this should be integrated into the program to rebuild Haiti ... not only the buildings, but also the economy and the social institutions. Clearly there is a need for food security ... but is food security done by WFP or by the actors in the Haitian economy and the government.

Of course it is just possible that this is another example of fund raising that is being done on top of the Haiti disaster stories!
Haiti: Bracing For The Hurricane Season

There was massive flooding in the northwestern town of Gonaives in the wake of a hurricane which hit Haiti in 2004. There will be more flooding in the future.

Haiti's epic earthquake struck three months ago. While the country recovers, the annual hurricane season looms -- just seven weeks away. In 2008, three hurricanes and one tropical storm lashed Haiti, killing 800 people, destroying 27,000 homes and triggering a severe hunger crisis. While hurricanes spared the Caribbean island in 2009, no one can say whether they will again this year. If they strike, more misery will unfold in a country which has already suffered too much.

But the misery will be less if the country is prepared.

“There is much we can do to make sure that the necessary food and other life-saving supplies are in key positions so that if the floods hit, we and our partners can ensure immediate delivery,” said Myrta Kaulard, United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Haiti Country Representative.

Pre-positioning food

WFP and its partners are increasing the number of pre-positioning locations from 15 to 20 and improving warehousing capacity to handle the storage of food and essential shelter items required in all 10 departments of the country.

WFP will also install semi-permanent warehouses throughout the country. High energy biscuits will be stored in preparation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and there is already over 22,000 tons of food in various locations around the country.

It was thanks to pre-positioned food and supplies that WFP was able to respond within 24 hours of the January 12 earthquake.

One of the key problems when Haiti is hit by torrential rains is that many central roads are blocked by floods or landslides. Route 204, the road connecting Port-au-Prince to Jacmel in the south and Cap Haitien in the north, is particularly susceptible.

Sea routes

That’s why WFP, which leads logistics operations for the humanitarian community in Haiti, is establishing new sea routes as alternatives when transporting food and supplies by road becomes impossible.

WFP is setting up a system of barges, which will be able to transport humanitarian supplies from Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo along the coast to the ports of Jacmel, Cap Haitien and Gonaives.

Rains have already begun and will intensify quickly over the coming weeks and months. The hurricane season runs from June to November.

“Haitians have suffered immensely from natural disasters and now they have to brace for yet another one,” said Kaulard. “As head of the Logistics Cluster, we are doing everything we can to prepare for the hurricane season."
I would be very interested to know more about WFP's logistics plans ... but again, I would observe that the sustainable solution to handling future emergencies is to ensure that the economy is working. This means, more than anything else, making sure that the broad economy is Haiti gets capitalized in the right way. I do not see this being done in the current "plan" for the ongoing relief and future rebuilding in Haiti.

It would be interesting to see an "inventory" of the food stocks presently in Haiti ... where they are located and who are the owners. It would be even more interesting to have a time series matrix showing how these various warehouse stocks have changed month by month over the past year. Some observers have suggested that the shortage of food to eat post earthquake was not because food was not available, just that owners do not want to sell into a market where the prevailing price is zero! There are also allegations that it is good business to acquire stock at these low prices (zero) and put it into inventory for future sale when the price is more normal.

I don't get the impression that WFP is thinking along these lines ... and in many ways the WFP is setting the stage for future hunger more than it realizes! It is tough to be a farmer when the market is dominated by the possibility of large quantities of free food!

Peter Burgess

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