28 August 2012
When Tropical Storm Isaac struck Haiti on Friday 24 August, the Red Cross was well prepared. Teams continue to help on the ground, supporting people affected by Isaac’s strong winds and heavy rains.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many people lost their homes and were displaced within the country. Thousands of these people are still living in makeshift camps, making them particularly vulnerable to further natural disasters.
Dr. Michaële Gedeon, president of the Haitian Red Cross, said: “Those who remain in camps, and particularly pregnant women, children, people who have disabilities and older people, are hugely at risk. Before the storm arrived the Red Cross helped evacuate some of those who were most in danger, and now the storm has passed we are going back to assist those who are most in need.”
In the days leading up to the storm, the Red Cross:
- helped the Haitian government pre-position water trucks, and evacuate 1,000 people to safe emergency shelters and provide them with practical and emotional support
- sent out 280,000 SMS messages urging people to listen for radio updates and to make appropriate preparations
- prepared cholera and first aid kits across the 13 regional branches
- prepared hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, blankets and buckets to be distributed after the storm
When the storm struck on Friday night, the Red Cross monitored the situation throughout the night. At first light on Saturday morning, it sent emergency assessment teams to the most vulnerable camps. Further teams were also dispatched on Sunday morning to remote mountainous areas, where heavy rains always pose the threat of flash floods and landslides.
The Red Cross has now reached over 50 of Haiti’s most at-risk camps. A Red Cross information line has given help and advice to tens of thousands of people.
Still in danger
The Red Cross is registering people in need and distributing the pre-prepared relief goods. Replacement tarpaulins, tools and materials will enable people to rebuild their shelters, and soap and other hygiene items will help combat the spread of disease. It is also helping the government to truck water.
Hygiene promotion is already a key activity in the camps for displaced people run by the Red Cross. Now, Red Cross volunteers are stepping up their efforts in a bid to head-off disease – spreading sanitation messages and distributing water purification tablets in other camps identified as a priority by national authorities.
Alexandre Claudon, head of delegation in Haiti for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “Some shelters have been blown away, many have been flooded and even for those whose tents are still standing, camps are swamped in mud. We are seeing serious problems with flooded latrines, and it is this mixing of human waste with floodwaters that poses the gravest danger in that it creates perfect conditions for cholera to spread.
“Unfortunately we are still only at the beginning of the hurricane season so there is every chance that we will be facing more storms between now and the end of the year.”
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