IOM's response to Tropical Storm Isaac, which hit Haiti this weekend, saw a rapid and coordinated reaction, in which the most vulnerable people in camps were evacuated well before the storm struck the country.
Thousands of people were taken to safety by Haitian Civil Protection (DPC) and IOM before and during the storm. People were returned from evacuation shelters to camps as soon as the storm passed over and provided with shelter materials, hygiene kits and other aid where necessary.
The storm highlighted the urgent need to close the 575 camps remaining since the 2010 earthquake and provide adequate shelter for 390,000 people still living under tarps and in tents.
"The camps got lucky this time and dodged the bullet," said IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Luca Dall'Oglio. "But they will not always be so lucky and the international community needs to act now to close all the camps by providing rental subsidies and housing solutions for those living there. The social and financial costs of evacuating a camp population every time there is a major storm can far outstrip the cost of providing housing rental solutions."
Haiti: IOM Response to Tropical Storm Isaac
Isaac – Getting Everyone Home Safely
Tropical Storm Isaac
The well-coordinated response to the first major storm of the hurricane season signalled a new level of preparedness by the authorities. It followed months of preparatory work by Haiti and its international partners to build resilience into the civil protection system. In many cases, it was well-trained camp vigilance committees who ensured that the evacuation of vulnerable people, distribution of aid and the returns went smoothly.
Storms have caused thousands of deaths in Haiti in the past and strike with predictable ferocity. The capital Port-au-Prince was saved this time when Isaac turned out to sea and away from the city. Even so, eight people tragically died, according to the authorities.
The huge depression brought heavy rain and winds in excess of 65 mph that destroyed thousands of tents and shelters in the camps.
IOM teams assessed the damage to camps and responded to urgent health and protection needs immediately. By yesterday (27/8) they had helped 5,210 households.
The Emergency Shelter and the Camp Coordination Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster coordinated the assessment and response in the camps. The UN and humanitarian agencies on the ground worked together to meet the most immediate needs of the affected population.
A vast sensitization campaign using media, loudspeakers, posters, SMS messaging and an emergency call centre also targeted the population at risk. It warned camp residents of the approaching storm and highlighted the location of emergency centres and pre-positioned emergency supplies.
"The rapid response was a credit to the hard work of preparedness and coordination which the State, through the DPC and humanitarian actors, have been engaged in," said Dall'Oglio.
"While civil protection and preparedness will continue to be a high priority for Haiti for the foreseeable future, we will fall down on the job as humanitarians, if we do not urgently find the necessary resources to close these camps quickly," he added.
IOM and other humanitarian actors have already helped 18,807 families to leave the camps by providing rental subsidies for 12 months. The programme has closed some 50 camps so far.
"We now need to target as many as possible of the remaining 575 camps, especially those where people live in dangerous and exposed conditions susceptible to storm damage," Dall'Oglio concluded.
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For multi-media coverage of IOM Haiti during Tropical Storm Isaac, please go to: