Between May and September 2004, Haiti suffered devastating floods in Fond-Verettes, Mapou and Gonaives. An assessment of the response to the floods revealed that although disaster plans existed and the Civil Defense had modest equipment at the central level in Port-au-Prince (and to a lesser extent, at department level), the response to the floods was still inadequate and disaster preparedness activities in Haiti should be stepped up.
Factors that delayed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected population included communication problems between the affected areas and the central level, the inability to carry out rapid needs assessments and the lack of resources at local and departmental levels. To address these shortcomings and to strengthen coordination at the departmental level, PAHO/WHO, with financial assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) lent support to Haiti's Civil Protection System to set up two EOCs in Les Cayes and Jacmel. Support included the provision of equipment (computers, satellite dishes, telephones) office furniture, minor repairs to the offices and communication connection fees.
In addition to the rehabilitation of the two EOCs, PAHO/WHO also worked with the DPC to develop contingency plans at departmental level, especially for the departments of Sud and Sud-est. PAHO/WHO also organized training activities for health personnel working in emergency rooms and for the management of mass casualty situations. Simulation exercises helped point out the strengths and weaknesses of health and paramedic staff.
When Hurricane Ernesto passed over Haiti in late August, it was apparent that the departmental level was better prepared to coordinate response activities, in part, thanks to the new communication equipment available at the EOCs. PAHO/WHO is committed to continue supporting these efforts to strengthen the Haitian government's management of health disaster response.