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Haiti Emergency Operation Shifts Up A Gear

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Haiti
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WFP
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WFP's emergency operation in quake-ravaged Haiti has shifted up a gear, with ready-to-eat food reaching tens of thousands of people daily, hot meals arriving at hospitals and kitchens being set up at food distribution points.

ROME -- WFP's emergency operation in quake-ravaged Haiti has shifted up a gear, with ready-to-eat food reaching tens of thousands of people daily, hot meals arriving at hospitals and kitchens being set up at food distribution points.

The UN food agency started distributing food within 24 hours of the earthquake striking and plans to reach 2 million as part of its emergency operation. By Saturday evening, WFP had supplied ready-to-eat food rations to at least 60,000 people with another 60,000 targeted on Sunday.

"We are mobilising all available resources to provide urgently needed food assistance as part of a swift and coordinated recovery effort," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

Food kitchens

WFP is establishing food kitchens in Port-au-Prince to provide prepared foods to the hungry because the level of destruction means few people have access to cooking facilities.

One of Saturday's distributions was in Leogane, a town west of Port-au-Prince, near the earthquake's epicentre. The WFP distribution supplied the first food to reach the town since the earthquake struck, destroying 90 percent of buildings and reportedly leaving tens of thousands of people dead.

As part of a wider UN appeal launched on Friday, WFP is appealing for US$279 million to cover the food assistance part of the global humanitarian operation in Haiti. The money is also to cover the necessary logistical support for a 6-month Emergency Operation.

Challenging logistics

WFP is well positioned to respond to the emergency as it already has stocks of food pre-positioned in the country. But the logistical obstacles are still considerable.

The airport is heavily congested; aviation fuel is in short supply and planes attempting to land have been held in holding patterns for up to two hours. The airport in neighbouring Dominican Republic is also becoming congested. WFP is actively exploring alternative routes to bring food assistance into Haiti, by road and sea.

WFP has established a logistics hub in neighbouring Dominican Republic and is acquiring logistical assets that will help deliver assistance without unduly impacting on the country's crippled logistics infrastructure. The road is open however, and transit times have been reported to vary between 20 hours to 7 hours.