Handicap International has deployed emergency response teams in Haiti to bring aid to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The organization is handing out emergency kits along with chlorine tablets to prevent cholera. The situation on the ground is extremely worrying: many homes have been damaged or destroyed, some villages are still cut off from assistance, and cholera cases are rising due to poor sanitation. In addition, the loss of crops and livestock may put more than one million people at risk of hunger and malnutrition in the coming months.
In the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, Handicap International has provided 2,800 families with essential items like cooking kits, hygiene supplies, and blankets to help them survive the crisis. “The people of Haiti have lost so much,” said Marlène Dussauge, Rapid Response Mechanism project manager in Haiti. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “more than 18,000 homes have been damaged and some families are living in extremely poor conditions in temporary shelters. Some villages remain inaccessible because the roads have been destroyed. It's almost impossible to reach them, even by foot, so we have to transport the aid by sea.”
“According to estimates from OCHA, some 1.2 million people (out of a population of 10 million) are unlikely to have enough to eat over the coming months,” says Dussauge. “At the end of August, Hurricane Isaac had already caused a lot of damage to crops, leading to a spike in food prices and raising the threat of food insecurity. Following this latest storm, 70% of the crops in the south of the island have been destroyed and many cattle were also lost, giving rise to fears of major malnutrition problems in the months to come. Handicap International, which has an extensive aid distribution capacity, is providing support to organizations actively involved in the food security sector.”
Handicap International's immediate response to Hurricane Sandy was enabled by our UNICEF-supported advance disaster planning efforts—the Rapid Response Mechanism—which began in August 2011. “We used the first stage of the project to identify vulnerable districts that are often badly affected by natural disasters, but receive less help from humanitarian aid organizations because they are difficult to access,” says Dussauge.
“We have identified local partners in these districts and given them intensive training on how to respond to a natural disaster, including how to distribute aid items, put up emergency shelters, monitor hygiene levels, and ensure that the most vulnerable people (including people with disabilities) are not forgotten. An alert network has been set up in each district and we have a key contact person with whom we are in regular contact.
“For the time being, we are continuing to perform assessments, handing out emergency kits, and lobbying local authorities,” says Dussauge. “Unfortunately, the international community has only made very limited donations to deal with this emergency. We are looking for additional funds to launch a more extensive relief effort that would include distribution of construction equipment, temporary food aid, and a more extensive cholera prevention program.”