The devastation to Gonaives brought with it a sense of déjà vu for Haiti watchers. We’ve been here before - the damage from Tropical Storm Jeanne was massive. Then as now, there were serious humanitarian needs that donors, non-governmental, and international organizations struggled mightily to meet. Then as now, there were a steady flow of politicians and celebrities. Other disasters happened elsewhere and Haiti again fell of the radar. The long term steps needed to ensure the survival of the city were not taken. Will things be different this time or will a preventable tragedy happen yet again?
The damage caused by Gustav and Hannah have set Haiti back years. Many have lost their homes and livelihoods. Food security, already precarious, is worse as crops have been destroyed, fruit trees knocked over, and livestock killed. Gonaives, ever prone to flooding, bore the brunt but many other cities and towns were damaged and need assistance. The implications are being felt nationwide. Haiti needs its friends during the long recovery process.
Natural disasters are a fact of life in Haiti, both in terms of the inevitable tropical storms/hurricanes and the floods/ mudslides left in their wake, largely as a result of the unabated deforestation. Gustav resulted in 22 deaths, but certainly could have been worse. While Haiti can't stop the storms, it is possible to mitigate the damage that they cause. Preparedness is key. Topix carried a Scoop Media World article on the efforts of the international community to help Haiti better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Climate change is making it harder for many people to access clean water and food, and widening the spread of infectious diseases, which include malaria and its dangerous cousin dengue fever. If the past few years have become the new normal, we need to do a better job of adapting. This means preventing, rather than just responding to disasters.