After causing considerable damage on several Caribbean islands, Hurricane Irma is moving towards Haiti’s northern coast overnight. Handicap International is extremely concerned for the welfare of the most vulnerable people, who are particularly at risk during large-scale natural disasters. The organisation’s teams, already present in the country, are ready to intervene as soon as the alert is lifted.
Present in Haiti since 2008, Handicap International is preparing to launch a humanitarian response, in the light of the initial warning signs, which suggest the possibility of a major disaster.
According to Catherine Stubbe, Director of Handicap International in Haiti, who is currently in Port-au-Prince: “For the Haitian people, so often the victims of natural disasters, the situation gets worse with each new disaster. Barely have they recovered from one disaster than the next occurs, leaving them slightly more vulnerable than before.”
Handicap International is concerned that the hurricane will have a serious impact on the most vulnerable people, who already live in conditions of extreme hardship. Strong winds accompanied by heavy rain could destroy the makeshift homes and livelihoods of families (plantations and cattle), leaving them totally dependent on humanitarian aid for months.
"The local radio stations are advising people to cut tree branches close to their homes, to wrap documents in plastic, and above all, to stay together, not to go off by themselves. Haiti is on high alert," says Catherine Stubbe.
Handicap International’s teams are preparing to travel to the north of Haiti as soon as the alert is lifted, to assess the situation in conjunction with other humanitarian aid organisations and the Haitian authorities.
Our current information suggests that the means already in place would fall far short of what is needed to help victims of the disaster. In addition, the terrain of northern Haiti, particularly the absence of natural obstacles such as trees, which usually provide a buffer against heavy rainfall, suggests that this part of the island will experience severe flooding.
A large number of people live in isolated areas without easy access to information, or are unable to take shelter. Of these communities, Handicap International is particularly worried about the most vulnerable individuals - people with disabilities, isolated women, and older people, living in isolated or difficult-to-access areas, which emergency services will be unable to reach in the days immediately following the passage of the hurricane.
The organisation may implement a logistics support operation to supply humanitarian aid to the affected areas, by organising the storage and transport of humanitarian goods to victims of the hurricane.
Present in the country since 2008, Handicap International launched a response to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and after the earthquake of 2010. With some thirty staff members in the country, Handicap International implements natural disaster risk reduction projects in association with the Civil Protection Department in several of the country’s departments.
Interviews available upon request.
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
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About Handicap International
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Handicap International is an independent charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.