Food distribution at a community canteen
Each canteen delivers 80 meals a day

Haiti: Financing community canteens

“With a minimum capital, I could give a boost to my retail business of food items and take care of my family”
Clotide Anilus

Oxfam's National Media Officer in Haiti, Peleg Charles, reports on an innovative project Oxfam is piloting to provide food while reviving livelihoods in earthquake-struck Haiti.

On 3 March 2010, we visited Carrefour Feuilles, a neighborhood situated in the south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In the midst of the idlers, we noticed the figure of Clotide Anilus, a 38-year-old mother. With three plates in a bag, she went to Guerline’s place, a community canteen financed by Oxfam.

Thanks to the community canteen, Clotide is capable of giving a hot meal to her family scattered here and there in Port-au-Prince. “This community canteen is what is left for my family and me to survive,” said Clotide casually. “I have never been able to get any tickets giving access to the distribution of food items because it’s not well organized, which complicates things for me with my three children and sick husband.”

Clotide’s situation is similar to that of thousands of Haitians who find themselves in dire straits in after the earthquake that hit Haiti in January. However, amidst all these uncertainties, Oxfam provides some relief by financing 56 community canteens in Carrefour Feuilles.

Sharing a meal

Through these canteens, Oxfam provides free hot meals to 4,500 survivors in the area. Each canteen delivers 80 meals a day. Priority is given to the most vulnerable groups such as needy women, elderly people, and the physically challenged.

In addition, the program beneficiaries are given an allowance of 2,000 gourdes (about $50) over a two-month period to cover other basic expenses such as pain relievers and toiletries.

Although Clotide gets only four dishes daily for her five-member family, she is quite satisfied: ”We manage to share a dish between the two of us. Not a big deal, because the other families must be able to get something too,” she said smiling.

This impish smile conceals some profound worries. Her small retail business had ceased to exist because she had to care for her husband who became mentally ill and paralyzed even before the quake. She now owes three months to her creditors, and her children spend the night in a slum while she stays in a refugee camp. Her sister’s house, where she used to stay because she couldn’t pay rent, was completely destroyed. “My main concern today is that this program is going to last only two months. What will we do afterwards?” she wondered anxiously.

A lasting solution

“In my opinion, with a minimum capital, I could give a boost to my retail business of food items and take care of my family,” dreams Clotide.

This is the idea that Oxfam advocates in its new post-disaster emergency plan.

“I want a lasting solution for all the beneficiaries. Nobody should be left empty-handed after the program of community canteens,” stated Philippa Young, team leader for Oxfam’s food security and livelihoods program in Port-au-Prince.

When the community canteen contracts end, Oxfam will incorporate the beneficiaries into a program, paying $125 for people to restart their small businesses. This will help people become proactive and self-reliant, and get them out of assistance progressively.

Read more

Download the report: Haiti: A Once-in-a-Century Chance for Change

Watch the video: Rebuilding Haiti: Haitians say jobs are key to recovery

Explore the map: Oxfam's response to the Haiti earthquake

In detail: What Oxfam is doing in Haiti