12 August 2010
The Red Cross is working hard to prepare for the hurricane season as weather experts say there is a 50 per cent chance Haiti will be hit by a hurricane, with wind speeds of up to 155 kilometres per hour.
Past hurricanes have caused major destruction; in 2008 Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike left more than 800,000 people homeless and devastated agriculture. This season could be just as catastrophic, particularly for those displaced in the earthquake.
“Our response will be far more challenging this year, due to the sheer numbers of people exposed in the hundreds of makeshift camps, who are highly vulnerable,” said Stephen McAndrew, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies head of operations in Haiti.
Living under tarpaulin
As the midday temperature soars to 44 degrees, Marjorie Charles cradles her one-month-old baby girl, Ketuna, in the doorway of her corrugated shack. She lives in Cite Soleil, one of the most impoverished districts in Haiti’s devastated capital Port-au-Prince.
Since her house collapsed in the earthquake, single mother Marjorie and her three daughters have been living under a tarpaulin roof, which offers scant protection against the searing heat and tropical downpours.
“I don’t know what we are going to do when the intense rains and storms come,” Marjorie says. “The tarpaulin already lets the rain in and the earth floor turns into a sea of mud.” Like everyone else in the camp she is anxious about what will happen when the current hurricane season reaches its peak in September and October.
Red Cross support
At the camp in Cite Soleil, the Red Cross has started replacing makeshift shelters with transitional shelters, which are built on concrete foundations, anchored to the ground with steel rods and can withstand category 1 hurricanes.
As the rains become more regular and the winds strengthen, the construction teams are in a race against time to finish 300 shelters in the next few months.
For single mother Marjorie Charles the shelters can’t be finished quick enough. “We are living in inhuman conditions,” she said. “All we want is to have a safe place to bring up our families.”
Read stories from survivors of the Haiti quake