Haiti: UN agencies and peacekeepers prepare for hurricane season

21 August 2009

United Nations aid agencies and the world body’s peacekeeping mission in Haiti have pre-positioned stockpiles of food and other emergency supplies and say they stand ready to support local authorities deal with the upcoming annual hurricane season, a year after four successive storms battered the Caribbean country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told journalists yesterday in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, that an inter-agency plan has been established so that the agencies and the peacekeeping force can assist the country’s own contingency plans.

The plan details potential assistance to an estimated 150,000 families across Haiti, which is ranked as the poorest country in the entire Western Hemisphere. It also calls for greater cooperation between UN aid agencies and the peacekeeping mission (known as MINUSTAH), particularly in the areas of logistics and reporting.

Every year Haiti and other Caribbean countries are threatened by hurricanes, but last year an unprecedented four severe storms struck within the course of a month starting in mid-August. An estimated 800 people died and 1 million others were affected as rivers of mud – made worse by deforested hillsides – choked cities such as Gonaïves and destroyed much of the country’s crop harvest.

OCHA spokesperson Kemoral Jadjombaye said inter-agency clusters will be set up to handle food aid, agriculture, education, nutrition, child protection and other issues in the wake of any disaster.

In the interim, the World Food Programme (WFP) has pre-positioned 30,000 tons of food aid in four locations – Port-au-Prince, Gonaïves, Cap Haïtien and Jacmel – and is also putting more than 60 all-terrain vehicles in position in case they are needed to distribute aid to hard-to-reach areas. Helicopters have also been placed on standby.

The agency says enough food has been set aside to supply some 500,000 Haitians with one month’s emergency ration of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil and salt. It is also ensuring that high-need groups, such as children and pregnant and lactating women, will receive high-energy food.

A group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is stockpiling another 112,000 tons of protein biscuits in 14 other locations.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is setting aside enough basic health and sanitary kits for 50,000 people for three months, as well as enough anti-tetanus serum to protect 25,000 people.


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