With the 2013 hurricane season officially starting tomorrow (1/6) and already predicted to be “active or extremely active,” IOM Haiti is preparing its emergency response by stockpiling non-food items, including water purification tablets and other supplies to combat waterborne diseases.
It is also working closely with government and local authorities, partners and vulnerable populations to undertake flood mitigation work and prepare for possible evacuations.
With more than 320,000 internally displaced Haitians still living in 385 camps, of which about 100 remain at particular risk of flooding, landslides or other environmental challenges, Haiti remains particularly vulnerable to extreme climatic events.
“Since the cholera outbreak in October 2010, camp residents remain very exposed to the risk of contagion, which always increases during this part of the year,” warns Kristine Parco, IOM Program Manager of the Health and Psychosocial Unit.
US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predictions for the six-month 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast a 70 per cent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
Haiti, where deforestation has taken place for the past three decades, and where flooding and landslides caused by heavy rainfall and strong winds are an annual event, is particularly at risk.
“This hurricane season we must remain particularly vigilant to prevent a renewed cholera outbreak. According to the Ministry of Health, the current stock of emergency supplies available in the country to help prevent cholera will run out in September, which is usually the most active part of the hurricane season,” adds Parco.
IOM has used funds provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to purchase new cholera prevention kits, including aquatabs, oral rehydration salts, hygiene items. It is also carrying out awareness raising sessions on cholera prevention and water, sanitation and hygiene in camps. But the total number of kits currently pre-positioned in emergency shelters is not enough to cope with a serious outbreak.
IOM is appealing to donors for additional funds to increase the stock of cholera prevention kits and other non-food items to be prepare for the next six months. It also needs funding to support emergency response activities in affected camps, including medical referrals and training for health care workers in the camps.
The effects of last year’s hurricane season are still felt today. Tropical Storm Isaac in August and Hurricane Sandy in October took lives and inflicted extensive damage to homes and crops, which led to food shortages and price increases, as well as to a substantial increase in the number of cholera cases.
“Recent rains reminded us once again of the extreme vulnerability of this country and its population. We urgently need more international help to allow us and our partners to continue to work with the government and the population to prepare evacuation systems, help mitigate flood risks and better prepare communities to face the risks posed by the upcoming hurricane season,” says Brad Mellicker, Head of IOM Haiti’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit and Emergency Shelter Cluster Program Manager.
Since 2010, IOM Haiti and its partners have constructed or rehabilitated more than 30 emergency evacuation shelters throughout the country.
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