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Hurricane Irma in Haiti: Preparing for major logistical challenge

Emergency
Haiti

After causing devastation on several Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and Saint-Martin, Hurricane Irma was heading towards Haiti late on Thursday evening. Haiti is regularly hit by major natural disasters and Handicap International’s teams are expecting to face serious problems accessing the worst-affected areas. Many families will need help for months to come.

Archive photo: HI's logistics operation in Haiti

Archive photo: HI's logistics operation in Haiti | © William Daniels/Handicap International

Hurricane Irma is expected to pass off the northern coast of Haiti on Thursday. However, accompanying strong winds and heavy rainfall could have disastrous consequences for the region’s inhabitants. The town of Cap Haïtien, the largest population centre in the north of the island, has more than 300,000 inhabitants, many of whom live in shanty towns.

Most homes are poorly built, and some are made from corrugated iron, wood and earth, so Irma is likely to leave many families without a roof over their heads. And probably without livelihoods,” explains Patrick Kelders, head of Handicap International’s actions in Haiti.

“But the main problem we’re likely face once the alert has lifted will be to access the region affected by the hurricane, because of blocked roads, felled trees, and the like.”

Our first task will be to assess the impact of the hurricane on victim assistance and equipment. A Handicap International team is already on stand-by to travel to the north of the island as soon as possible to assess the situation.

“Once the hurricane has passed, we could be faced with a major logistical challenge - the transport of humanitarian aid,” adds Patrick Kelders.

“This may require us to set up a logistics platform, as we did in 2016, after the passage of Cyclone Matthew, with storage depots and a fleet of lorries to transport humanitarian aid to victims of the disaster.”

Handicap International is working with other organisations in Haiti and the authorities to prepare this response.

“One of our main aims will continue to be the sustainability of our current activities on the island and the implementation of a new resilience support project for communities in the northwest (disaster risk management) in conjunction with the authorities. We are also preparing to launch an exploratory mission to gauge the scale of needs on this part of the island,” adds Patrick Kelders.

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.

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