January 18, 2010 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Prior to last Tuesday’s devastating earthquake, Haitians were busy at work building flood protections and establishing urban gardens. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had 23 programs for growing food in the region most affected by the quake, including areas in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the cities of Jacmel and Leogane. All will now have to be relaunched, said Ari Toubo Ibrahim, head of Haiti operations at the FAO. Those farther afield will all have to be reassessed, as well, since Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, FAO’s main partner, has effectively been destroyed. ”We have to start helping the urban and peri-urban populations immediately to relaunch vegetable production,” Ibrahim said. “There is no use waiting. That is what needs to happen now.”
Water supplies throughout the nation will have to be reassessed, and funding for food production and storm protection is now threatened as international attention is turned to meeting Haiti’s desperate emergency needs. ”We are not operational. We are still looking for missing staff, and the Port-au-Prince office is not open,” said FAO’s Ibrahim.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday that the Haitian emergency was the “most serious humanitarian crisis faced by the United Nations” in decades, surpassing those caused by the Asian tsunami, the recent Pakistan earthquake and cyclone Nargis in Burma.