PARMA, ITALY- Tens of thousands are feared dead in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti, a nation so impoverished that many citizens eat only one meal a day.

Although the immediate priorities in Haiti following Tuesday’s earthquake are to rescue those still trapped, bring relief and shelter to the injured, road clearing and other operations that are life-saving, over the coming weeks and months people will need to be fed. It is crucial the priority of boosting agricultural production in that country does not get forgotten along the way.

As relief efforts pour into that country, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (F.A.O.) is closely monitoring the situation on the ground to get a clearer picture of the immediate impact on food security and food production. It is working in close partnership with the World Food Program and other U.N. agencies dealing with emergency food aid and nutrition.

F.A.O. will continue to ensure food production continues in the rest of the country as soon as possible. The next agriculture season starts in March. Destruction of roads, bridges, fishing ports and irrigation infrastructure will all have a serious effect on food production. F.A.O. country team is preparing to asses damages as soon as possible.

More than a half of Haitians – between five and six million people - live in rural areas and around 85% of the rural population practice some agriculture and farming, which accounts for around 26% of Haiti's economic output making agriculture by far the country’s biggest employer. Until now, most of the hungry and malnourished live in rural areas, F.A.O. said.