Silver Spring, MD—After causing devastating damage on several Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico, St Martin and Barbuda, Hurricane Irma is lashing Haiti’s northern coast. Handicap International is extremely concerned for the welfare of the most vulnerable Haitians, who are particularly exposed during large-scale natural disasters.
“For these people, the situation gets worse with each new disaster,” says Catherine Stubbe, director of Handicap International in Haiti, and currently in Port-au-Prince. “Barely have they recovered from one disaster then the next occurs, leaving them slightly more vulnerable than before.”
Initial warning signs suggest the possibility of a major disaster. The information our local teams have suggests that the means already in place in the country would fall far short of what is needed to help the disaster’s victims.
Northern Haiti lacks natural obstacles, especially trees, which usually provide a buffer against heavy rainfall, suggesting that this part of the island will experience severe flooding. Lastly, a lot of people live in isolated areas without easy access to information or are unable to take shelter. Of these people, Handicap International is particularly worried about the most vulnerable individuals—people with disabilities, isolated women and older people living in difficult-to-access areas. It’s expected that emergency services will be unable to reach these areas in the days immediately after the hurricane.
Strong winds accompanied by heavy rain could destroy families’ makeshift homes and livelihoods (plantations and cattle), leaving these Haitians entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for months.
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 organizations and the Haitian authorities.
The organization’s logistics experts may also launch a support operation to supply humanitarian aid to the affected areas, by organizing the storage and transport of humanitarian goods to hurricane victims.
Present in the country since 2008, Handicap International has launched numerous emergency responses in recent years, including actions after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and the 2010 earthquake. With 30 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.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. Offices in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States work constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997; and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.