UN sees storms add to hard-hit Haiti's food crisis

Other News Materials 6 September 2008 08:17 (UTC +04:00)

Flooding in Haiti from three major storms has killed scores of people and "washed away" progress toward dealing with ongoing food shortages, the top-ranking U.N. humanitarian official said Friday.

"The timing of this could hardly be worse," said John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. "It's clear that one of the effects of the successive storms has been to wash away a lot of the efforts that were made to restore agricultural production in Haiti itself."

Over the past three weeks, hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Hanna have killed more than 200 people as they caused serious flooding and put as 600,000 in need of help, Holmes said.

Holmes told reporters at U.N. headquarters that the storms have setback efforts to boost Haiti's agricultural production and break the impoverished country's dependence on imported food.

On the immediate front, the U.N. World Food Program has handed out food to 14,000 people affected by the onslaught of Hurricane Gustav last week.

Most recently, Hanna barreled through on Monday. The death toll in that storm alone has hit 137 and was expected to rise higher.

A boat loaded with aid arrived Friday at the flooded port city Gonaives, the first such significant delivery of help since Hanna struck.

Other nations and groups have been at work trying to bring in aid. A U.S. plane from Miami delivered supplies for 20,000 people to Port-au-Prince, much of it brought to Gonaives by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and two helicopters for distribution Friday.

Some rescue convoys have been blocked by floodwaters, AP reported.

"This is a major challenge because infrastructure is not good to start with," he said. "Even if you know it's going to happen every year, you've still got to fix it when it arrives."