Preparations underway as Haiti braces for Hurricane Irma impact

September 7, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Kieran McConville

Haiti prepares itself as the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded in history threatens to bring rains, wind, and destruction.

Concern Worldwide’s Haiti team is preparing for the potentially devastating impact of Hurricane Irma on Haiti’s poor and vulnerable communities. While the exact trajectory of the hurricane is difficult to predict, it is anticipated that Irma will hit the northern part of the country on Thursday and Friday.

On Haiti’s largest island, La Gonâve, we are compiling stocks in the event they are needed for distribution to those impacted by flooding and destruction.

Hurricane Irma headed for Haiti

A NOAA satellite image of Category 5 Hurricane Irma, with an estimated 49 million people in its projected path. Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Local communities have been urged to move away from coastal areas and gather basic emergency supplies, such as food, drinking water, and blankets.

“The Haitian government has taken steps to evacuate people and have made preparations to ensure people are in safe locations and that they have basic supplies,” said Concern’s Logistics Coordinator, Gillian Boyle.

Still recovering

Hurricane Irma threatens Haiti just a year after Hurricane Matthew tore through the country, and devastated the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Haiti is still struggling after the powerful Category 4 storm destroyed homes, livelihood and infrastructure.

“Haitians just rebuilt their lives after Hurricane Matthew, and now they have to prepare for Irma. All their hard work will come undone and they will be left with nothing again.”

Hurricane Matthew’s death toll soared to nearly 1,000, and left some 1.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance. 150,000 people were still displaced at the start of this year, while 800,000 needed food assistance. Losses to Haiti’s agricultural sector were estimated at more than $500 million.

Child walks through flooded waters in Port-au-Prince

Hurricance Matthew brought heavy rains and flooding to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The category 4 hurricane was the largest to hit the Caribbean since 2007. Photo: Andrew McConnell/Panos Pictures

 

A cycle of disaster

Though progress is visible 11 months on, it is feared that yet again, Haiti’s poorest communities will be most devastated by Hurricane Irma’s lashing rains, 185 mph winds, and 20 foot waves.

“There is a huge risk of mudslides due to heavy rains and winds. Low lying areas are extremely vulnerable and waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are always a fear.”

“Haitians just rebuilt their lives after Hurricane Matthew,” explained Boyle. “And now they have to prepare for Irma. All their hard work will come undone and they will be left with nothing again.”

Flooding is expected in  Port-au-Prince. Slum communities like Grand Ravine, in Martissant, and low-lying, coastal, Cite Soleil have poor drainage and canals that become easily overwhelmed because of poor sanitation. It is also believed that La Gonâve, where miles of road were destroyed during Matthew, will also be heavily impacted.

Road construction

Road rehabilitation on La Gonâve, through a cash-for-work program. More than a mile of critical roads were rebuilt following Hurricane Matthew. Photo: Patrick André

“On La Gonâve island off the west coast, local authorities have urged people to move inland as waves of up to 20 feet high have already been reported in areas where the storm hit,” said Boyle. “There is a huge risk of mudslides due to heavy rains and winds. Low lying areas are extremely vulnerable, and waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are always a fear.”

Concern in Haiti

Concern has worked in Haiti since 1994 and has responded repeatedly to major disasters there, including the 2010 earthquake, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Matthew last October.

Concern is supporting the people of Haiti as they prepare for yet another disaster. We will also continue ongoing rehabilitation and redevelopment work to build the resilience of Haiti’s poorest communities to climate events like Hurricane Irma.


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