Haiti: Helping isolated families prepare for disasters
Although regularly hit by natural disasters, Haiti’s population remains highly vulnerable due to the country’s frail infrastructure and ill-equipped emergency services. In recent years, Handicap International’s disaster risk prevention projects have been working to help the most isolated people protect themselves.
Archive photo: Disaster risk awareness session, Haiti | © A. Richard/Handicap International
As Hurricane Irma moves toward the country’s northern coastline after devastating several Caribbean islands, including Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy on Wednesday, the people of Haiti are preparing for the worst. Often with only rudimentary means to hand, families must try to limit the sometimes devastating consequences of strong winds and heavy rain.
Since 2013, Handicap International has been running disaster risk management projects to help the most isolated people, who are often left to fend for themselves during natural disasters. When rivers break their banks or landslides block roads, they risk being cut off from the rest of the country for days on end.
To ensure they are able to take shelter or protect their homes and papers, Handicap International provides families with kits containing torches, radios, waterproof sleeves and plastic sheets, particularly in the south of the country. We also make people aware of the need to take shelter in solidly constructed buildings, such as schools and colleges, during alerts.
In addition, Handicap International has improved access to several establishments by adding ramps, for example, to ensure people with disabilities and older people can seek shelter rapidly.
For several months, Handicap International has also been working with the authorities, including the Civil Protection Department of Haiti and disabled people’s organisations, to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency responses, especially during natural disasters - a major challenge in a disaster-prone country like Haiti.
Out of 56 internationally recognised disasters recorded in Haiti, 20 major events occurred in the 20th century and four in the last decade. On a global scale, Haiti is the third country most affected by extreme weather events, according to the global climate risk index published in 2016 by Germanwatch.
Handicap International in Haiti
Present in Haiti since 2008, Handicap International launched a response to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and after the earthquake of 2010. With some thirty staff members in the country, Handicap International implements natural disaster risk reduction projects in association with the Civil Protection Department in several of the country’s departments.