The lessons learned below are a result of the analysis of main findings and lessons from the impact and response to past hurricanes, in Haiti and hurricanes that impacted in locations with similar characteristics and features of Haiti.
The aim of this product is to improve the performance of humanitarian actors in the response of the Hurricane Matthew, assist agencies working in the response and encourage positive action by decision makers.
Vulnerability to disasters
Haiti is experiencing an increasing trend in successive disasters: it has experienced 56 internationally recognised disasters, including 20 major disasters in the 20th century. In 1963, Hurricane Flora killed 6,000 people in Haiti and Cuba (The Guardian 4/10/2016).
Three catastrophic hurricane seasons have occurred in just the last decade (PAHO 2011).
During the hurricane season of 2008, Haiti was hit by four storms – Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike – which killed more than 800 people and devastated nearly three-quarters of agricultural land. Haiti also suffered dire flooding in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007 (The Guardian 4/10/2016).
Deforestation and soil erosion prompt mean there is a high risk of landslides
Soil erosion and deforestation are endemic in Haiti: 40% of Haiti’s area was forested in 1940, and this had fallen to an estimated 1.4–2% in 2001; 20% of land is considered arable, while 50% is under agricultural production. The country has been dependent on the export of cash crops and timber since colonial times. Subsistence agriculture is carried out on marginal sloping land, and growing urbanisation has added to the pressure (McClintock 19/03/04).
The southern peninsula of Haiti sees more frequent hurricanes than the rest of the country, and this is where the soil erosion risk is particularly high (USAID 01/04/2007). Grande-Anse, Sud, Nippes and Sud-Est are thus the most vulnerable to landslides after hurricanes (USAID 01/04/2007). For example, several landslides were triggered by the Tropical Storm Sandy in October 2012 in Sud department (UNOSAT/UNITAR 07/11/2012).