Update From the Field: How WFP Is Responding to Hurricane Irma

Disaster Preparedness Emergency Response Haiti
A WFP aid worker carries a box of High-Energy Biscuits with a plane in the backdrop

Updated September 15, 2017.

Over the weekend, Hurricane Irma — the strongest Atlantic storm on record — made landfall in the Caribbean. The hurricane caused extensive damage in Barbuda and Anguilla, as well as partial flooding in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.

The worst hit are some 200,000 people in the eastern Caribbean islands — Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Saint Martin/St Maarten, Saint Barthélemy and the Turks and Caicos Islands. At least 35 people have been reported dead. In addition, the islands have seen severe damage to infrastructure and health centers, with widespread loss of electrical power and limited access to clean water.

The World Food Programme (WFP) quickly began delivering nutrition-packed, High-Energy Biscuits (HEBs) in the towns of Fort Liberté and Ouanaminthe in northeast Haiti to families displaced by the storm and living in shelters. These rapid emergency food distributions were made possible thanks to the advance deployment of 141,000 pounds of food and supplies from a humanitarian response depot in Dubai — enough to reach 80,000 vulnerable people over four days.

A young boy holds an open package of High-Energy Biscuits while looking off camera
A young boy eats from a package of High-Energy Biscuits, delivered Sunday in northeastern Haiti.

As Haitian officials lead the humanitarian response, WFP can mobilize and distribute an additional supply of pre-positioned food for up to 150,000 people. Some of this food has been redeployed to islands worse hit and facing greater need.

The agency is ready to launch an emergency operation with the Cuban government to assist 664,000 people. WFP and its partners are set to distribute pre-positioned stocks of rice, beans and vegetable oil that can feed up to 275,000 people for a month. More funding is being mobilized to purchase additional food.

A man stands over a shipment of WFP boxes that are being hauled out of an airplane
33,000 pounds of High-Energy Biscuits arrived this week in St Maarten from Haiti. In close collaboration with the government and partner Samaritan’s Purse, they will be distributed in emergency relief packages that include water and other supplies.

WFP is providing WFP is providing over 66,000 pounds of HEBs to the islands in the eastern Caribbean — enough to feed more than 17,000 for three days — and over 22,000 pounds of HEBs to the western Caribbean — enough to help 8,500 people. The agency is also providing telecommunications support to Caribbean islands like Barbuda to help coordinate response efforts on the ground.

The U.N. Humanitarian Response Depots (UNHRD), managed by WFP, have airlifted additional supplies like hygiene kits, tarpaulins, buckets, soap, mobile storage units, generators, telecommunications equipment and more on behalf of four partners.

When natural disasters strike, hunger is often the first emergency. That’s why WFP is among the first on the ground to deliver food assistance when it matters most.

But the agency is also working with at-risk communities to prepare against future disasters through early warning systems, infrastructure improvements and innovative partnerships with academic institutions like MIT and private companies like Google. Join our mission and learn how you can make a lifesaving difference.

Help WFP Respond to Emergencies

WFP is the humanitarian community's first responder, arriving quickly to provide not just food but the expertise to ensure that relief reaches those who need it, no matter the conditions on the ground.