DISASTER RELIEF AND RECOVERY

The lack of tree-cover throughout the country creates serious ecological damage and is a major contributor to the high level of death and destruction when natural disasters strike, which they have and will regularly.  How many people must die and how much economic losses will the country have to endure before the international community together with the Haitian government fund and implement a crucial and sustainable national policy of reforestation and ecological remediation?

Henryka Manès, Founder and Executive Director
Ecoworks International, 2011

HAITI’S VULNERABILITIES

Haiti is prone to natural and manmade disasters.  Providing disaster relief on a regular basis is part and parcel of the reality of working in Haiti. The 2010 earthquake was devastating. It revealed the inadequacy of the construction methods and the lack of enforcement and preparedness.

Sadly, we don’t see any improvement in how those who live in socially fragile communities build their homes. Affordable and well-built housing is urgently needed, and this is where the half billion dollars raised by the American Red Cross for Haiti’s earthquake relief would have made a huge difference. What happened to this funding seems to remain an unresolved question, despite the ProPublica / National Public Radio investigation and Senator Grassley’s hearings.

EWI POLICY

EcoWorks International’s policy is to provide, within our ability, what is needed to alleviate the immediate pain and suffering; but to act with great care so as not to create more damage by extending the emergency response for too long.  For instance, sending clothing within the first four weeks may be necessary, but doing so beyond that time will destroy the domestic textile businesses and jobs.  When a disaster occurs, we assess the situation daily and switch to recovery as soon as possible.

Hurricanes, flash flooding and epidemics occur regularly and cause much harm and destruction. AGERCA (Alliance for the Management of Risk and for the Continuity of Activities) is an excellent initiative funded by the Haitian business community. It sends timely updates about predictable risks, preparedness, and organizes conferences on risk management. But it alone cannot be effective long-term. It needs to be complemented by a national plan and funding to strengthen building codes, enforce these codes, plan and implement massive reforestation programs that include funding to help people transition from wood charcoal to other means of cooking (kerosene may be one choice); and funding to transition industries (such as bakeries, dry cleaners, construction) from wood to alternative fuel (gas, liquid natural gas, solar, wind)
The list below illustrates the regularity at which disasters in Haiti occur.

Since EWI began working in Haiti in 2009:

2009• September 2008 – torrential rains cause severe flooding submerging the city of Gonaives under 2 meters of water (6.5 feet), causing 800 deaths and leaving 100,000 homeless. There were many reasons why this disaster was so devastating. EWI studied why despite the sophisticated alarm system Gonaives had, no alarm was given to the population. Henryka Manès presented these findings at a by-invitation-only work meeting convened by the World Bank.
2010• January 12th : the magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred in off the coast of Léogane in the greater Port-au-Prince region at 4:53 PM, local time. It killed close to 300,000 people (population 10 million); 1.5 million people became homeless; caused damage in the billions of dollars. A dozen secondary shocks of magnitudes ranging from 5.0 to 5.9 were registered during the hours and days that followed. Its epicenter was at approximately 59 km west of Port-au-Prince, off the coast of Léogane. • January 20th : A second earthquake of magnitude 6.1 occurred at 06:03 AM local time which caused more destruction. • October 20th : A cholera epidemic outbreaks near Port-au-Prince, caused by a UN contingent not respecting basic sewage regulations. To date 10,000 died, 500,000 became infected. Cholera patients must be separated from regular patients because the disease is infectious; this complicates treatment delivery in a country with insufficient access to healthcare. • November 5th : Hurricane Tomas kills at least 10 Haitians, causing damage and worsening the cholera epidemic.
2012• August 25th, Tropical Storm Isaac hits Haiti, including our region in the Commune of Thomazeau: one little girl died, 5,000 people were evacuated. Heavy flooding and losses of crops and farm animals. Important structural damage. • October 23-26 Hurricane Sandy, 51 dead, heavy flooding, roads and houses damaged; the whole country is affected. Severe losses of homes, roads, crops and farm animals.
2015• Tropical Storm Erika brings 10 inches of rain and causes flash flooding; heavy losses of infrastructure, crops and farm animals.
2016• October 3d and 4th : Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti with catastrophic flooding of up to 40 inches and a storm surge of up to 10 feet. More than 1,000 people are killed in the southwest region, and 35,000 are left homeless. Damage in the affected areas, including our own, includes 85% of crops lost, and 60% of farm animals killed. Homes, schools, clinics and hospitals were damaged or completely lost.