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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Heavy Rains Test Haiti’s Preparedness for Hurricane Season

Heavy Rains Test Haiti’s Preparedness for Hurricane Season

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Wednesday, 08 June 2011 14:41

Heavy rains dumped up to six inches of rain across Port-au-Prince and throughout much of Haiti Monday night. Continued rain is predicted through Thursday. The storms left 23 dead, injured many and left thousands more displaced. A damage assessment by the Département de la protection civile and the IOM found that 32 of 187 camps were flooded and that nearly 500 families were affected in Cite Soleil, one of the worst hit areas. Some camps were under up to four feet of water. The assessment also noted an increase in the number of cases of cholera, and that "latrines have been reported to overflow in some camps."

The deadly storm comes just a week into the Atlantic hurricane season and less than a week after the UN's Nigel Fisher proclaimed that Haiti was better prepared than last year. Following the storm, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald spoke with Elise Young of ActionAid:

ActionAid called for better coordination between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Haitian government and nongovernmental organizations to prevent further disaster this hurricane season. The new devastation, ActionAid said, highlights the need for newly elected President Michel Martelly to immediately implement a long-term housing strategy for Haitians, hundreds of thousands of whom remain under flimsy tents and tarps nearly 17 months after a catastrophic earthquake.

“Disaster mitigation must be prioritized not only in Port-au-Prince, but in vulnerable communities throughout the country that are at risk of severe flooding,’’ Elise Young, an analyst with ActionAid, told The Miami Herald.
This year, although the camp population may be lower than last year, hurricane preparedness is complicated by the high number of people living in damaged housing. Charles reports:
Mellicker said that reality makes “this year much more complex because of the migration patterns to unrepaired homes that are either red or yellow.’’ A home designated as red is one that should be demolished and the yellow label means in need of repair.

A controversial USAID-commissioned report said that 64 percent of red homes have been reoccupied in the Greater Port-au-Prince area.
As we pointed out last week, the USAID-commissioned report contained a warning that over one million people were living in badly damaged housing. Indeed, 13 of the deaths from the storm were in Petionville and were caused by the collapse of houses, according to Le Nouvelliste.

The rains have also added to the resurgence of the cholera epidemic, spreading quickly in the capital but also in other parts of the country. Last week, warnings from Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other relief organizations noted a serious increase of cases in the capital. The Pan American Health Organization warned on June 3 that most Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) they’ve contacted in the capital were at full capacity. CTCs and CTUs in the South department are also nearing capacity.

It is certainly questionable why, in the two months prior to the beginning of the hurricane season, the number of CTCs was cut in half. One reason is that since early February, the UN’s cholera appeal has only received about seven million dollars, or 4 percent of the appeal.  After Martelly’s presidential win, many predicted that aid would soon be on the way.  The international community, which had abandoned Preval and pushed forward with a fatally flawed electoral process, had been awaiting a new president to finally distribute their grandiose aid pledges, it was argued. With experts predicting an active hurricane season and a deteriorating health situation, Martelly’s reaction to the continued rains will be important to watch. He has already been more visible than Preval, making a live address on Monday night as the rain was still pounding and then going to some of the most affected areas yesterday. Yet without a concrete housing strategy and with donor support still slow to materialize, Martelly may find himself subject to much of the same criticism that Preval faced last summer, as the needs of those still living in such extreme vulnerability continue to go unmet.

Tags: cholera | rainy season | shelter | UN | usaid

 

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