16.01.2015 | Blog

Haiti Practicing for Emergencies

People are prepared for the next disaster.

After rainfalls or hurricanes, streets are simply washed away. Here, a street near Petit Goâve is being repaired.
After rainfalls or hurricanes, streets are simply washed away. Here, a street near Petit Goâve is being repaired. © Andreas Herzau

Haiti – residents of this Caribbean country will never forget the wholesale destruction caused by the earthquake of January 2010. The disaster risk remains high due to a variety of factors. Extreme land deforestation and settlement of unprotected slopes in watersheds facilitate erosion, and hurricanes sweep across the land, destroying streets, houses and fields. After heavy rainfalls, fields and paths are swept away.

Welthungerhilfe supports around 271,000 people in three communities in southern Haiti: In Jacmel, Petit Goâve and Grand Goâve. The goal is to better prepare inhabitants for natural disasters and their effects. In each of the three communities, 10 disaster prevention brigades and committees are being established. Committee members make the decisions in the event of an emergency; they are also developing an early warning system that makes it possible for people to evacuate in time.

Bread and wood for a sustainable future at Millennium Village Poirier, Haiti

Bread and wood for a sustainable future at Millennium Village Poirier, Haiti
Bread and wood for a sustainable future at Millennium Village Poirier, Haiti

Better Preparation for Disasters

The brigades respond on a practical level and provide first aid. A total of 1,800 people are participating in the two groups, including the authorities as well as prominent personalities, village elders, religious leaders and local citizens

In addition, there is one disaster prevention committee for each district. Members of these committees represent district authorities and the civil society, firefighters, the Red Cross, the police and pathfinders. They collaborate as a network and incorporate disaster prevention into their development planning. Participants at the national level include representatives of various government ministries and scientific institutes. 

Good Network Collaboration

Welthungerhilfe is collaborating with journalists to produce educational content on disaster risk reduction for radio, television and newspaper. Collaborative workshops with Haitian artists also aim to promote awareness of climate change and disaster risk reduction amongst the people. Disaster risk reduction measures in Haiti are being co-financed by the Disaster Preparedness Programme of the European Community Humanitarian Office (DIPECHO).

Another Disaster in Haiti

Earthquakes are not the only threats facing Haiti: Erosion, due to significant deforestation, and extreme flooding, due to torrential rainfall and hurricanes, are looming as well. In order to protect the population from such disasters, Welthungerhilfe has organised training sessions in three communities - Petit Goâve, Grand Goâve and Jacmel - for disaster prevention committees. Members of these committees include representatives of local authorities, journalists and members of the Department of Disaster Prevention. The focus of these training sessions is on disaster risk reduction.

On August 25, 2012, Hurricane Issac hit southern Haiti particularly hard. Heavy rainfall and storms crippled Jacmel, Petit- and Grand-Goâve in particular. However, Joseph Edner, Welthungerhilfe head of project in Petit Goâve, states: “We saw our lessons being correctly implemented on both local and community levels: Everyone reacted well!”

Despite heavy rainfall and flooding, local committees were on the road, offering help. They informed inhabitants about Hurricane Isaac in advance. Coordinator Joseph Josué Berger said in 2012: “Our training helped us a lot. Without it, people would have died. We evacuated people and brought them to safety. Now we need food, water, mattresses and blankets to look after them.”

Welthungerhilfe clarified concrete needs with the disaster relief committees and supported them with direct emergency aid. It also explored methods to provide farmers whose fields were destroyed with help through local institutions and to rebuild destroyed riverbank reinforcements. The training efforts and the development of disaster risk reduction plans were absolutely worthwhile in these three communities. All in all, their residents survived Hurricane Isaac well and are well-equipped to deal with the next disasters.

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