Hurricane Irma in Haiti: No let-up in support for the most vulnerable people
Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage in the Caribbean and along the US coast, leaving a trail of victims in its wake. Wind and rain has caused extensive damage in the northeast of Haiti but, despite fears of a disaster, the country has escaped the worst of the storm. Nevertheless, Handicap International remains committed to helping the most vulnerable families, who are more likely to be affected during disasters.
Archive photo: Assessment after Hurricane Matthew in Haiti | © B. Almeras / Handicap International
“The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and along the US coastline shouldn’t blind us to the problems facing the most vulnerable people. Haiti is regularly hit by disasters and each one leaves them even more exposed than before,” explains Catherine Stubbe, director of Handicap International in Haiti.
“For very many families, life is a delicate balancing act. They live in makeshift shelters and don’t have real jobs. Each disaster, and the bad weather it brings, makes them immediately vulnerable, because they lose the few possessions, crops and work tools they had.”
“So, as part of our plans to support the risk and disaster preparations made by the civil protection authorities in Haiti and local actors, we’ve sent a mission to Bombardopolis, in the northwest of the island, to assess the hurricane’s impact on local people. We’re now working in a sector where the rough tracks and trails, hilly terrain and isolated settlements make it harder to reach people.”
More disasters could occur before the end of the cyclone season in late November.
“One of our missions is to help people protect themselves from disasters and to prepare themselves for future ones. We do this mainly by supporting communities to put in place district emergency plans, set up early warning systems and implement family emergency plans,” adds Catherine Stubbe.
“We’ve been doing this with isolated families since 2013. We tell them where they can find shelter, and make certain shelters accessible. We also hand out emergency kits containing radios, torches, plastic sheets, and waterproof covers to keep their possessions dry.”
To make sure vulnerable people are included in future emergency plans, Handicap International remains fully committed to working with its partners in isolated areas.
The organisation is working closely with the authorities on this project, including the Haitian Civil Protection Department, and the Haitian NGO ADEMA, in addition to disabled people’s organisations - a major challenge in a country so prone to disaster.
Present in the country since 2008, Handicap International launched a response to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, and following 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.