Haiti: flash floods and mudslides latest threats in earthquake-hit country

16 August 2021

As Haiti struggles to recover from the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit over the weekend, killing some 1,300 people, the UN is warning that many people are likely to be affected by Tropical Depression Grace, a storm which is expected to bring torrential rain, flooding and mudslides between Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday, the UN migration agency, IOM, declared that it is focusing on finding safe buildings and shelter for the thousands of people displaced by the earthquake, after more than 13,600 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

In addition to the dead and wounded, initial reports indicate more than 700 collapsed buildings, including hospitals and schools, more than 13,000 homes destroyed, and significant damage to roads.

"These numbers will grow as data collection progresses”, said Federica Cecchet, IOM's Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti. “One of the main priorities in the coming weeks will be the proper management of emergency shelters and humanitarian support for thousands of people who are displaced".

Three days after the quake, humanitarian teams have not yet reached many areas, especially in the department of Nippes, with transportation hampered by destruction and damage to roads and bridges.

On Sunday, Pierre Honnorat, the head of the World Food Programme in Haiti, explained in a Tweet that, with the road cut off between Les Cayes and Jérémie, it is difficult to get emergency food supplies to those who need them.

WFP Haiti Director Pierre Honnorat speaks with staff at the Sainte Antoine hospital in Jeremie, Haiti, one day after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the country on August 14, 2021.
© WFP
WFP Haiti Director Pierre Honnorat speaks with staff at the Sainte Antoine hospital in Jeremie, Haiti, one day after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the country on August 14, 2021.

Acute humanitarian needs

“Health centres, schools, bridges and other essential facilities and infrastructure on which children and families depend have also been impacted – in some cases, irreparably”, said Henrietta Fore, the head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, on Sunday.

“The humanitarian needs in affected areas are acute, as essential services have been disrupted. Many people urgently need health care and clean water. Those who are displaced need shelter. Children who have been separated from their families amidst the chaos need protection.”

According to the UN aid coordinating office, OCHA, local hospitals are already overwhelmed with wounded people, especially in Les Cayes and Jérémie; help is being provided by the Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas. 

The UN response to the Haiti earthquake

  • On Sunday, Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths allocated US$8 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to support the humanitarian response. The allocation will provide essentials such as health care, clean water, emergency shelter and sanitation for people affected by the disaster. 
  • Access to the southern peninsula – where the earthquake hit – is challenging due to gangs controlling movements. Local authorities are negotiating access, and an initial convoy of six vehicles with staff from UN agencies and the Government travelled to the affected area on Sunday. Further convoys carrying supplies will travel today.
  • The health system in affected areas is being overwhelmed, as health workers are assisting the injured while also contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of COVID-19 patients is expected to increase in the coming days and weeks.
  • While assessments are still in their early stages, more than 13,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 13,000 have sustained damages. These figures are likely to increase significantly in the coming hours. 
  • As part of the immediate humanitarian response, UN Humanitarian Air Service flights are supporting the delivery of supplies and medical staff. Mobilization of national and international partners for the coordination of the emergency response is in progress, including government deployment of volunteers for rapid response teams to conduct search-and-rescue activities and clear collapsed buildings and homes.
  • The most urgent humanitarian needs are expected to be linked to the provision of medical assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene. 
  • The emergency health response is already under way, including the installation of tents at the OFATMA Hospital in Les Cayes. UNICEF will send three health emergency kits to the two hospitals in Les Cayes and one in Jeremie, covering around 30,000 people.

 

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