Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Aid workers in Haiti have begun distributing food to help some of the Caribbean nation’s poorest people cope with a severe drought, an official with a United Nations agency said Thursday.

The World Food Program on Wednesday began handing out cereal, vegetable oil and iodized salt to 10,000 people in towns in the northwestern peninsula of Haiti, WFP program chief Antoine Renard said.

Aid workers hope to reach 164,000 people with food by the end of the month, when the rainy season is due to begin. The goal is to hand out enough food to last at least a month so that farmers won’t be forced to eat their seeds, which would sabotage their ability to grow crops.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a U.S.-government financed program that tracks weather patterns, agricultural production and food prices in an effort to offset famine, describes worrisome conditions for Haiti’s northwest.

Rains ended earlier than usual in October in the northwest and elsewhere along the northern coast, leading to the loss of sorghum, bean and corn crops.

The scarcity of water and an earlier and longer lean season will put families in a crisis category through June, the network reported. That category means that at least one in five households faces a food shortage, along with high or unusually acute malnutrition. People will need to sell off possessions to get by.

Haiti and its 10 million people are especially vulnerable to the whims of weather. A severe drought in 2012, also in the northwest, and the outer bands of Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy wiped out crops, causing many in Haiti to go hungry.