IDB approves $5 million soft loan to Haiti for early warning system against floods

Program to install automated alarms in high-risk communities and improve response to flooding emergencies and save lives

The Inter-American Development Bank today announced the approval of a $5 million loan to Haiti for a national program that will set up a flood early warning system with automated alarms in communities in high-risk areas.

Every hurricane season Haiti is exposed to catastrophic flooding and mudslides in its deforested watersheds. This week 40 people were reported dead or missing after Hurricane Dennis. Last year two major storms took nearly 4,500 lives.

"Large-scale disasters are one part of the problem. Haiti also suffers the cumulative impact of smaller events that set back its development," said IDB project team leader Caroline Clarke. "The flood early warning program will empower local communities and national authorities to take action. Saving lives will be the first measure of success."

The Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) and the Civil Protection Directorate (DPC) of the Ministry of Interior and Local Government will carry out the program.

The IDB loan will help finance an observation network that will provide accurate and timely data on potential flooding in 13 priority watersheds. A basic communications system, including radio transmissions and sirens, will alert local residents about emergencies and give them more time to seek higher ground.

The program will also provide technical assistance to local authorities and civil protection committees to improve their levels of readiness and response to floods. A national awareness and education campaign will be carried out to disseminate information on risks related to natural disasters and prepare the population to react to flood alerts.

The MARNDR and the DPC will receive technical assistance and training to strengthen their capacity to run the early warning system efficiently. The program will also cover maintenance costs of the early warning system during its first decade of operation.

The national program for flood early warning is part of Haiti's disaster prevention and risk management plan, which is being supported by the IDB, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and donor nation aid agencies.

IDB Support for Haiti

The Inter-American Development Bank has the largest loan portfolio in execution in Haiti, with some $435 million for basic infrastructure, roads, agriculture, water and sanitation, primary education, job training, community development and small productive projects throughout the country. It is also supporting public finance reforms to raise state revenues and improve effectiveness and transparency in the public sector

Other loans totaling $145 million are in advanced stages of preparation for programs in sectors such as transportation, rural development, environmental management, early childhood development, water distribution, and access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises.

In response to Haiti's evolving needs and for speedier program execution and disbursements, the IDB has streamlined its procedures, increased its flexibility and strengthened its Port-au-Prince office.

The IDB coordinates its activities closely with donor country agencies and multilateral institutions in support of the Interim Cooperation Framework, Haiti's strategy to address its most pressing political, economic and social problems during the transition to a new elected government. The national disaster prevention plan is a key element of the Haitian strategy.

IDB and Disaster Prevention

Hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods and tsunamis threaten many Latin American and Caribbean countries. Since 1975, the region has lost an average of around 5,000 lives and $3.2 billion a year in damage caused by natural disasters, according to the IDB's Office of Evaluation and Oversight.

In addition to the $3.8 billion in financing for disaster-related programs approved over the past decade, the IDB has worked on a number of initiatives to incorporate risk management in its operations, including the development of disaster prevention loans, the establishment of a regional network of disaster and risk management policymakers and the design of a state-of-the-art system of risk management indicators.

The IDB is currently carrying out a four-year action plan to help countries take preventive measures to mitigate the potential impact of disasters and minimize the diversion of resources from development programs to emergencies and reconstruction. Better risk management is critical to safeguard the region's investments in development and to improve aid effectiveness.