Simple technology becomes a symbol of resilience for a community determined to thrive

Publié: 29 octobre 2013 5:00 CET

By Julián Arango, Norwegian Red Cross

A yellow banner is raised on the community flagpole. The community recognizes the message: first alert, ensure food stocks, have important documents such as identification stored in a safe place and have sufficient water ready. The community disaster preparedness and response committee begins one of the simulations that they periodically carry out in Cavanak, a community located approximately three hours from Port au Prince, near the city of Petit-Goâve. 

There are approximately 600 families – about 6,000 people – living in Cavanak.  Strong rains, flooding, hurricanes and droughts are conditions that led to the formation of a community disaster response and preparedness system which has a simple purpose: save lives.  

The latest natural disaster to visit this community was Hurricane Sandy that brought with it heavy rain, rivers that over ran their banks, and afterwards a period of drought. As the river dried up, the farmland was left submerged in clay and sediment, making planting impossible.  

However, this community refuses to be beaten. An exemplary system of organization, a disaster response plan, and even a reforestation project are some of the tools that this community has put together to confront their reality and build resilience.

The reforestation project will prevent further erosion in the mountains and help stop the river from bursting its bank. The project also improves food security in the community since fruit trees were among those planted. Their plan is to be able to complement the diet of children living in the zone.

The Haiti Red Cross Society, with support from the Norwegian Red Cross, has been directly supporting this community through a disaster risk reduction project and helping to lay the foundations of what has become a brilliant community endeavour. Their hard work in prevention and risk reduction has paid off and was shown during Hurricane Sandy. Even with the huge damage that was caused, including complete destruction of houses and rivers that suddenly took new routes through the area, there was not a single casualty in the community.

These families don’t have the option of moving. The conditions of poverty and scarcity of opportunities are the same everywhere in the region. Solidarity is this community’s strength; it ensures that networks are preserved, cultures are strengthened and the community works together to prepare and recover.  

A red flag now waves on the pole – those in high-risk areas must be evacuated and everyone else should stay in their house until the storm on its way passes. The resilience of this community has been tested by four hurricanes, an earthquake and other disasters in recent years; in all cases, it has passed the test with flying colours and become an inspiration to the rest of the country.