By France Hurtubise in Haiti
Although the worst is behind them, the Haitian people are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy. According to the government, the losses to agriculture - already hit by tropical storm Isaac - are estimated at over $100 millions US dollars.
Rivers which flooded during the storm have taken away topsoil, fruit trees and cultures; eroded banks gave way, and protective walls were shattered; plantations of corn, beans, sorghum, pigeon peas, bananas, tubers, peanuts, vegetables and rice were entirely destroyed or badly damaged by wind and water. The government has confirmed that over 64,000 heads of livestock were washed out, adding that the drought that preceded Isaac had already caused huge losses, jeopardizing food security, which is now doubly endangered.
Thousands of families have seen their homes destroyed, damaged or flooded. Following assessment by the Haiti Red Cross Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), distributions were quickly organized. The shelter kits, blankets, pots and plastic sheets that were given to beneficiaries will mean that they will not only have something over their heads, but will be able to serve a hot meal to their families.
During the past week, Haiti Red Cross Society volunteers have multiplied actions in the field. They are working on all fronts, providing mosquito nets, hygiene kits, jerry cans and water purification tablets, along with instructions on their use, so as to prevent the spread of cholera and other diseases originating from the consumption of contaminated water.
Several teams had a psychosocial volunteer (PSP) for providing support to families who had lost everything. In the south, volunteers raised awareness among 4,000 families on the need to prepare and guard against natural catastrophes. Throughout the country, the organization is carrying out assessments and giving away flyers on the prevention of violence.
In order to meet the needs in the mid-term, the IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for $2,316 million US dollars that will be used to support a one-year program aimed at 22 communes. The food supply component will provide food to 10,000 families. The food security component will help 66 associations (18 fishermen’s associations, 24 farmers associations and 24 women associations) through technical training, support during the spring agricultural cycle, advice on diet and nutrition, as well as the distribution of tools, seeds and livestock.
Haiti is a small Caribbean country prone to extreme meteorological events. Through its risk reduction program, the Haiti Red Cross Society carries out multi-risk prevention campaigns. Chantal Pitaud, national coordinator for disaster management, said: “Over the coming weekend, a simulated catastrophic event will be staged in Cap Haitien, a northern city with a high-risk of earthquake and tsunami. In addition to distributing flyers and door-to-door awareness-raising, 1,500 students will be evacuated from their schools. All these actions will contribute to informing people on actions they can take to prevent and protect themselves.”