Hurricane season: Haitians at risk
The 4th of October, 2017, marks one year since Hurricane Matthew ravaged southern Haiti. 140mph winds and severe flooding caused 603 deaths and widespread loss of homes, livestock and infrastructure. Handicap International (HI) is helping Haitians to cope with the 2017 cyclone season.
HI’s logistic platform coordinating the delivery of aid items by sea, October 2016 | Handicap International
Handicap International (HI) was instrumental in the response to hurricane Matthew; coordinating road and sea journeys to deliver aid and remove rubble; distributing emergency kits to thousands of people affected; and providing psychological support and physical rehabilitation to victims in the months that followed.
Despite the international response to hurricane Matthew, as the first anniversary of the tragedy passes, Haitians remain extremely vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters. 2.7 million people across the country are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, with the majority living in fragile structures, in isolated areas and with little financial security.
In September, 2017, millions of people around the world tracked the paths of hurricanes Irma and Maria as they created untold destruction across the Caribbean and Florida. Mercifully, Haiti was spared from the full force of the winds and the damage caused was much less significant than expected. However, the threat of further cyclones will continue until the end of the season in late November. HI’s in-country team fears that the most vulnerable Haitians, currently being supported by the association, are not ready to face another blow.
Preparedness and Resistance
“One of our missions is to help people protect themselves from disasters and to prepare themselves for future ones.” explains Catherine Stubbe, director of Handicap International in Haiti. “We do this mainly by supporting communities to put in place district emergency plans, set up early warning systems and implement family emergency plans,”. These procedures are designed to make sure that people with disabilities, sensory impairments or other vulnerabilities are not forgotten when disaster strikes.
Since 2013, in partnership with the national authorities, HI has coordinated regional ‘disaster risk reduction’ programmes. Catherine explains, “Haiti has suffered from multiple, mass-scale natural disasters over the past decade and each one makes it harder to prepare for the next! Therefore a long-term approach is needed to build resilience.” HI launched activities in August 2017 in the North West of the country in order to improve the economic resilience of people dependent on fisheries, livestock and agriculture. “HI is ready to respond if and when the next disaster strikes but we are also focused on initiatives that will help to break the cycle and provide long-term protection for those most at risk”.
Statistics from HI’s emergency response to Hurricane Matthew
- More than 240 people received rehabilitation sessions
- 750 people took part in social cohesion sessions and more than 180 people benefited from first aid psychological support.
- Around 1,000 emergency kits (containing tools) and household items (solar-powered lamps, jerry cans, mosquito nets, and so on) were distributed in the department of Nippes to more than 4,700 people.
- 1 logistics platform was set up by Atlas Logistique/Handicap International in the cities of Les Cayes and Jérémie.
- 108 road journeys and 14 sea journeys were made by a fleet of 40 lorries and 10 boats, to transport more than 270 tonnes of humanitarian equipment for other partners in aid of people living in remote areas.
- 300 journeys by skip lorries were organised by Handicap International to clear rubbish, for a total of 2,871 available tonnes, representing 1,689 cubic metres (actual and available) over 1,495 km (municipalities of Jérémie, Anse d’Hainault, Baumont and Morron).
 Medair, UNASCAD, Solidarité International, DIAKONI, UNDP.