News / Americas

Hurricane Preparations Underway in Haiti

The International Organization for Migration says efforts are underway across Haiti to prepare for a summer of tropical storms and hurricanes.  The IOM says this year's hurricane season poses a particular danger because 1.5 million earthquake survivors are living in flimsy tents and shelters in Haiti. 

International aid agencies say the challenges ahead are enormous.  They warn the coming bad weather may bring another humanitarian disaster down on the Haitian people.

The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti six months ago killed an estimated 230,000 people, made more than one-and-a-half million people homeless, and destroyed much of the country's infrastructure.

Haiti is situated in the middle of what is called Hurricane Alley, a path that major tropical cyclones tend to take after they form in the mid-Atlantic.

Over the past five years, more than 5,000 people in Haiti were killed by hurricanes and storms.  

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, says aid agencies are putting in place strategies they hope will mitigate the impact of forthcoming hurricanes, especially in vulnerable, earthquake hit cities, such as Gonaives.

"For instance, roads have been paved to make sure that assistance can be delivered to displaced populations," he said. "We have been working with U.S. funding on creating terracing, to make sure that the land can be retained, does not basically get washed away by the rains.  We have been also working on reforestation programs."  

Chauzy says IOM and its partners are preparing for the worst by pre-positioning emergency shelter materials for 25,000 families.  He says they plan to increase shelter to cover the needs for 130,000 families or 650,000 people by September.

At the same time, he says a communications system is being put in place to issue warnings to Haitians to prepare for violent weather.  He says roadside billboards and posters will provide people with advice on safety measures during storms.  

"We also are creating awareness messaging systems," said the spokesman.  "For instance, camp managers in Gonaives and other parts of the country that are vulnerable to hurricanes will receive SMS text messages ahead of the hurricanes to make sure that camp residents can evacuate areas that are prone to flooding, that are prone to landslides

So far, Chauzy says more than 5,600 transitional shelters have been built and an additional 15,000 transitional shelters are in the pipeline.  He says they cannot yet be built because not enough land is available.

He says the land issue is a big problem and likely to remain so for a long time.  He says much of the land is blocked by debris from the earthquake.  He says there are also large parcels of land whose ownership is being contested in court.

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