Monday, August 16, 2010

Haiti ... WFP, free food and perverse incentives

Dear Colleagues

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has been a big component of the relief effort in Haiti. There are many questions, however, about how efficient and effective the WFP work has been. At some level the work of WFP is very positive ... but there is also the flip-side that the role of food aid has wrecked local agriculture in many fragile communities.

I have seen forty years of WFP promoting its activities ... but it is rare to find the studies that show how food aid provides a perverse incentive to local food production.

In Haiti it is being reported that the petty merchant class has been economically disadvantaged ... I mean, put out of business ... by the activities of the WFP. Not surprisingly, I do not see this referenced anywhere in the WFP material that is set out below!

The following is WFP starting to use the Social Networks to promote their activities and obtain donations.
Bulletin from the cause: Feed a Child with Just a Click!
Go to Cause
Posted By: World Food Program USA
To: Members in 46 Causes
Haiti: Six Months On

Six months ago, a devastating earthquake changed Haiti forever. You responded, and WFP was able to help millions of Haitians survive the aftermath. WFP’s teams are still on the ground, preparing for the coming hurricane season and building back Haiti stronger and better than before. Donation by donation. Day by day. One person at a time.

I’m proud to be part of this amazing community and to report back on our outstanding success in Haiti.

Haiti: Six Months On

The World Food Program was on the ground distributing food within 24 hours of the January 12th earthquake, and we’ve been able to feed 4 million Haitians to date.

The focus has shifted to longer-term solutions, rebuilding society from the ground up. WFP’s Food and Cash for Work programs have already created jobs for 30,000 Haitians and that number continues to grow. In exchange for enough food to feed a family of five, workers are helping repair roads and dig irrigation canals, benefitting entire communities.

Watch the latest video straight from Haiti to hear firsthand how lives and livelihoods are being rebuilt.

WFP’s school meals programs are providing daily meals to 655,000 children. These kids will continue to receive hot, nutritious food throughout the summer even though school is out. WFP is also helping to ensure the most vulnerable people, including pregnant mothers and young children, receive the right food through supplementary nutrition programs.

Many have predicted this will be a bad hurricane season, and WFP stands prepared for the worst. Working together with the Haitian government and many NGO partners, WFP has already positioned food supplies for more than 1 million people in case disaster strikes again.

Catch up on all the latest developments in Haiti here.

Thank you for all you do in the fight against hunger,


Jason Corum
Online Communications Manager
World Food Program USA, formerly Friends of the World Food Program
I am not at all sure that the WFP is building back a Haiti that is "stronger and better than before" but more likely one that depends even more on the international handout. A poor society does not progress when it is fed and clothed and housed ... but progresses when people in the society have opportunity to earn something, and with these earnings to feed and clothe and house the family.

I am amazed that the international experts have not set up some programs to employ Haitians to do work that needs to be done ... especially clearing debris and constructing shelter.

I do not like "food for work" ... this and company scrip was banned in Britain in the nineteenth century for good reason, but food for work is a common practice with the UN and the WFP. People deserve money for work ... and with money they should be able to buy food and other items they need. The following is something else written by WFP.
Six Months in Haiti: From Relief to Recovery
By WFP Published on July 6, 2010

Six months after the catastrophic earthquake on January 12, WFP has fed some four million people in Haiti. Now, its operation is shifting gears from emergency food relief to a long-term strategy using food assistance to fuel the recovery.

Over the past six months, WFP’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti has unfolded over four main phases, from saving lives in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake to helping Haitians rebuild their country.

Despite the death of several staff and major damage to its office and warehouses, WFP began distributing high energy biscuits (HEBs) and other ready-to-eat foods within 24 hours of the earthquake.

Faced with enormous logistical challenges, WFP was able to distribute one million food rations to 200,000 people in the week following the quake.

With Haiti’s telephone lines knocked out, WFP’s FITTEST teams set up an emergency communications network for the entire humanitarian community that was up and running within seven days.

With the capital, Port-au-Prince, in a state of disarray, WFP was able to set up a network of 16 distribution centers that gave out a two-week ration of rice to over 1.3 million people in under six weeks.

Distributions were organized through a speedily organized coupon system that gave priority to women, ensuring that they and their children got the food they needed.

WFP provided ready-to-eat meals to some 370 orphanages around the country, home to an estimated 37,000 children, many of them orphaned by the earthquake.

A nutrition drive launched in February targeted nursing mothers and small children with specialized foods like a peanut paste designed to protect toddlers from malnutrition.

School meals programs resumed in March, eventually providing over 655,000 children with a daily meal.

Some 300,000 high-risk families began receiving a complete food basket in March, consisting of rice, beans, corn soya blend, oil and salt. The food reached an estimated 1.3 million people, mainly women and children.

Already more than 30,000 workers are participating in projects that provide them with cash and food in return for work to rebuild areas damaged by the quake and the number is growing daily. The projects ensure rations for over 150,000 people.

Paid around $5.00 per day and enough food to feed a family of five, workers clear roads, dig irrigation canals and building flood works in view of the upcoming hurricane season.

By the end of the year, Cash and Food for Work programs will provide over 140,000 workers with a steady source of income and food, benefitting some 700,000 people.

Bracing for hurricane season

Haiti was spared from hurricanes in 2009, but no one can say what will happen this year. In preparation for the worst, WFP has prepositioned food around the country and set up a system of barges to move food and supplies should the roads become unusable.
I would very much like to see an "accounting" of the resources used and the benefits arising from the work being described by WFP. My expectation is that there is no such accounting, but it would be enormously helpful if there was. The lack of any meaningful information about the activities that are being undertaken and the resources being consumed is a scandal ... but those responsible for this are well "protected".

I was hopeful in January that this time the emergency response would include much improved accounting and accountability relative to the Tsunami experience and the Katrina experience ... but my hopes have been dashed. Neither the Government of Haiti, the UN nor USAID have stepped up to provide good accountability, and up to now no NGO seems to have emerged to fill this vacuum. In a system with no accountability it is normal for money resources to be used ineffectively ... and the situation in Haiti is in the normal pattern!


Peter Burgess

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