Over 400,000 people are still living in camps in the Haitian capital Port au Prince. IFRC/Julien Goldstein.
By Lorraine Taggart in Port au Prince
It is early Thursday morning August 23rd, 2012 and as tropical storm Isaac approaches Haiti, a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, the Red Cross is up and about trying to keep one step ahead of the storm.
The Haitian Red Cross in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is mobilized to respond to 25,000 families in the event of an emergency. Thousands are still living in camps and in tents across Port au Prince, making them particularly vulnerable to other natural disasters.
Non-food items such as hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, blankets and buckets are prepared to be distributed after the storm and two teams made up of international and national staff are already in place to perform a post-disaster assessment of 73 camps in the metropolitan area. Cholera and first aid kits have also been prepared across the 13 regional branches.
Jean-Baptiste Pericles, Head of Communications at the Haitian Red Cross said the objective was to keep people safe before, during and after the storm. “This is why we have already mobilized our efforts in order to respond as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency,” he said. “This is why more than 80 volunteers are already on standby to assist in any response operations."
Following previous successes in using SMS messages for health promotion, the Haitian Red Cross has also sent out warning messages using the same system, urging people to listen for radio updates on the storm and to make appropriate preparations for strong winds and significant rainfall. Recorded messages will also warn people to stay away from rivers and ravines, electrical wiring and coastal areas, and suggest supplied to keep in their houses while they wait out the storm. A sound truck will tour parts of the city to pump out similar warnings.
This is not the first time that the Red Cross has had to prepare itself for a hurricane and with its experience it has once proven ready and able to tackle the important task of proecting and serving the Haitian population.