The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Is Haiti Ready for Another Natural Disaster?

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Back in early June we asked our readers, “Are you ready for hurricane season?” Hurricane preparedness is vitally important, even in countries as  technologically savvy as the United States and Canada. We have state-of-the-art detection systems, the best building materials as well as the ability to provide our citizens with advanced warning. But what about a country like Haiti who is less privileged, less savvy, less advanced? Think about it; is Haiti really ready for another natural disaster?

Here’s another question, before the massive earthquake that rocked the small island just months ago, were we even aware of the previous natural disasters in Haiti?

[Maria]Charles adds that the hurricanes of 2008 wiped out her home and fields. An estimated 800 Haitians died, and 60% of the country’s harvest was destroyed. In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne led to more than 3,000 deaths — 2,800 in the Gonaïves area alone. Severe floods and mudslides washed away fragile infrastructure precisely because of Gonaïves’ bowllike geographical location and years of deforestation that made the hills melt with the huge rains. Without trees acting as sponges to absorb the moisture, the water rushes down mountains in free fall, collecting crops, houses and people. Before the Jan. 12 earthquake, hurricanes were the disaster that Haiti knew it would face again and again. “Only God knows how Gonaïves will survive — how we will survive,” says Charles, peering into the future.

So how prepared are the Haitian people in 2010, a hurricane season the experts are predicting to be worse than normal?

The Haitian government has yet to come up with a unified contingency plan for the hurricane season, says Pascale Lefrançois, United Nations humanitarian-affairs officer, who concentrates on planning for disasters.

“I will never say we will be entirely ready,” says Sarah Muscroft, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti. “But if you can minimize the risk, that’s the best way you can prepare.” At the very least, she says, evacuation procedures must be drawn up.

While Haiti says they’re more ready than they were in 2008, the truth is, all they can do is wait and see.

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Written by traumalines

July 22, 2010 at 11:02 pm

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