Aid distribution put in hands of 'reliable' women
The 79-year-old woman with a 55-pound bag of rice perched on her head descended concrete steps yesterday and passed it off to her daughter-in-law -- who quickly disappeared behind the faded leopard-print sheets that are the walls of their makeshift home on the crowded turf of Haiti's national stadium.
That personal victory for Rosedithe Menelas and her hungry family was a leap forward as well for the United Nations and other aid groups.
Under a new targeted approach to aid, Ms Menelas and thousands of other women across Haiti's capital no longer have to battle with men at food handouts that in recent days have been chaotic and dangerous scrums.
"Every time they give out food there's too much trouble," said Ms Menelas, collapsing into a small wooden chair as two grandchildren quickly scrambled into her lap.
"Today, we finally got something."
UN officials say they are still far short of reaching all of the quake victims estimated to need food.
The UN World Food Programme and its partners borrowed an approach that has worked in other disaster zones.
The agencies fanned out across Port-au-Prince, distributing coupons to be redeemed for bags of rice at 16 sites. The coupons were given mainly to women, the elderly and the disabled.
Men could redeem coupons for women who were busy taking care of children or who otherwise could not make it.
"Our experience around the world is that food is more likely to be equitably shared in the household if it is given to women," WFP spokesman Marcus Prior said at the stadium, now a sprawling encampment of families left homeless by the quake.
Officials targeted women because they were primary caregivers in most households and were less likely to be aggressive on aid lines.