UN WARNS OF FURTHER HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN HAITI
"This is a country acutely exposed to hurricanes at the best of times," said Sarah Muscroft, Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti. "With so many people still so vulnerable after the recent earthquake, a serious hurricane this year could be devastating. We are therefore planning for a worst-case scenario."
While contingency plans are well under way, including dedicated 24-hour humanitarian rapid response teams in case of rain or hurricane related incidents in spontaneous sites, the danger posed by hurricanes to the already vulnerable populations left homeless by the quake is considerable.
The rest of the country, where poverty is extreme and infrastructure poor, also remains acutely vulnerable, especially those areas still recovering from Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, which between them killed over 800 people in 2008 and devastated large parts of Haiti.
Preparedness measures by humanitarian agencies currently ongoing include the pre-positioning of two million emergency rations in 31 locations across Haiti by the World Food Programme (WFP). The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has a permanent emergency task force on standby and is prepositioning emergency items in ten towns and cities, and shelter agencies are working to ensure sufficient emergency shelter items are available. Mitigation work in camps following technical assessments is also ongoing to reduce vulnerability to flooding and rains.
Further contingency planning, however, would be greatly assisted by the release of the Country Wide Contingency Plan, drafted by the Department of Civil Protection in collaboration with partners. While the plan has been updated following the earthquake, finalization by the Ministry of the Interior has not been completed.
"While it is encouraging that the government has led this process, it is vital that this plan is put into practice as quickly as possible," said Ms Muscroft. "The international community is standing by to assist in this process in any way we can."
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.