The humanitarian crisis triggered by January’s earthquake in Haiti could worsen with the onset of this year’s hurricane season, which experts have warned could be severe, the United Nations said today, adding that the Organization and its partners are preparing for a worst-case scenario.
“This is a country acutely exposed to hurricanes at the best of times,” said Sarah Muscroft, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti. “With so many people still so vulnerable after the recent earthquake, a serious hurricane this year could be devastating. We are therefore planning for a worst-case scenario,” she added.
Contingency plans being designed include the dedication of 24-hour humanitarian rapid response teams in case of rain or hurricane-related incidents in sites where those who lost their homes as a result of the earthquake on 12 January have settled in the capital, Port-au-Prince, according to OCHA.
The rest of the country, where poverty is extreme and infrastructure poor, also remains acutely vulnerable – especially areas still recovering from Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike – which between them killed over 800 people in the space of a month in 2008 and devastated large parts of the country.
Other preparedness measures by humanitarian agencies currently under way include the pre-positioning of two million emergency food rations in 31 locations across Haiti by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a permanent emergency task force on standby and is pre-positioning emergency items in 10 towns and cities, and shelter agencies are working to ensure sufficient emergency shelter materials are available.
Hurricane mitigation work in camps following technical assessments is also ongoing to reduce vulnerability to flooding and rains. Further contingency planning, however, would greatly benefit from release of the countrywide contingency plan drafted by the Department of Civil Protection in collaboration with partners. While the plan has been updated following the earthquake, finalization by the interior ministry has not been completed, according to OCHA.
“While it is encouraging that the Government has led this process, it is vital that this plan is put
into practice as quickly as possible,” said Ms. Muscroft. “The international community is standing by to assist in this process in any way we can,” she added.