Taking Stock of the Damage After Ike

  • Posted on: 11 September 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

By most accounts, the Haitian Government responded well to Gustav.  The Haitian Ministry of Interior’s Office of Civil Protection (DPC) played an active role, gathering information and establishing shelters nationwide. However, Hanna overwhelmed the country's capacity and produced a national catastrophe  that was exacerbated by Ike.  The storms affected 600,000 people in nine of ten departments. Of them, the UN is reporting that 331 people have died and 70,000 people remain in shelters.  Relief has been slow because of damaged infrastructure but it is arriving.


Many cities were impacted including Port de Paix in the Northwest, Cap Haitian in the North, Hinche on the Central Plateau, Miragoane in the Nippes Department, the most of the Southeast, Les Cayes in the South, Grand Goaves in the West.  Gonaives though was clearly the hardest hit city in Haiti.


Matt gave an interview on the humanitarian situation in Gonaives - click here to listen and see his photos. The aftermath is eerily similar to Hurricane Jeanne four years ago.  When Hanna hit, Gonaives was still without a functional morgue and a decent hospital.  Then as now, the city lacked a single, integrated sewer system. Reforestation programs and infrastructure projects were never implemented.  Many of the same personalities and humanitarian responders from then are back. I fear they will need to return again and again until long term measures are taken to mitigate the next disaster.


On Wednesday, the UN appealed for nearly US$108 million in disaster relief. Humanitarian chief John Holmes called the aid crucial, noting the long term economic consequences of this disaster.  I’ve attached the appeal at the bottom of the blog.  


The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is on the ground.  WFP has delivered over 100 metric tons of emergency food assistance to over 11,000 hurricane-affected people. Emergency response distributions are on-going. MINUSTAH peacekeepers have also been distributing water and high-protein biscuits throughout Gonaives.  In an interview, the WFP/Haiti Deputy said efforts to feed several hundred thousand people made homeless by the tropical cyclones could still fall tragically short noting, "We need some 25,000 tons of supplies, including 16,000 tons of rice, to help feed the affected population over the next six months. But we only have 3,500 tons in stock."


The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) is also involved and sent a shipment of nutritional supplies to Gonaives to support MSF-Belgium. They are looking for other implementing partners.  Water/Sanitation is a particularly pressing need.  UNICEF reports that nearly all water sources are contaminated.  As a result of high water levels, sewage is mixed with the floodwaters that people cannot avoid contact with.  Temporary shelters lack even basic sanitation facilities. Until water/sanitation systems can be re-established, UNICEF will continue to distribute potable water to survivors in temporary shelters.


The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Western Hemisphere's Branch of the World Health Organization, is evaluating health needs and is actively monitoring for disease outbreaks. This is important as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned of an expected increase in the incidence of diarrhea, due to the lack of safe drinking water. PAHO has reinforced a hospital in St Marc near Gonaives, and is also working with the Ministry of Health to transform a small health center into a hospital in Rabuteau. 


The Haitian Red Cross is also active in Gonaives and is being supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Numerous ICRC staff and vehicles have been made available.  Rescue teams are assisting survivors in Gonaives and in the south.  Plastic sheeting, jerrycans, kitchen sets, sleeping mats and soap are being distributed. ICRC is also helping the Haitian Red Cross trace and reunite families.  


The USS Kearsarge, a Navy ship, arrived with amphibious boats and helicopters.  The boats and helicopters have delivered more than 85 metric tons of food although recipients still need supplies with which to cook. The USS Kearsarge can generate between 40,000 and 60,000 gallons of safe drinking water per day.   


According to Reuters, Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis said 60 U.S. military engineers were being dispatched to Haiti to help rebuild roads and other infrastructure. The United States sent boats and helicopters to bolster relief efforts. Pierre-Louis added that France, Canada, Spain and Venezuela had also promised assistance.  Both the United States and Venezuela had pledged to provide pontoon bridges to replace those destroyed by floods.  Given the enormous challenges faced by the government they have delayed the upcoming school year by one month.


The European Union gave $2.85 million for relief efforts.  In a much welcome show of Caribbean solidarity, the Dominican Republic donated water, food and mattresses. Trinidad and Tobago sent Haiti $1.5 million.  Also of interest, the New York Times notes the government is talking about whether to move some of the population away from the lowest-lying areas. 


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has sent a Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) to Haiti. Based on their guidance, the USAID Mission will nearly double the amount of humanitarian assistance from $10 million announced on September 8 to $19.5 million. According to USAID, the additional assistance includes $7 million of emergency food to be provided through WFP and $2.5 million for relief supplies, health programs, temporary shelter and other emergency relief activities.  The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also deployed staff to work with the Haitian Government, UN agencies and other humanitarian responders. 


The NGOs play a critical role. World Vision is teaming up with the Haitian American Emergency Relief Committee in Miami to raise emergency funds and provide relief to the hurricane victims in Haiti. The HAERC includes elected officials, community leaders, non-profit representatives and grassroots activists with the goal of coordinating Miami's response to emergency relief efforts in Haiti. Plan, Save the Children, AVSI, World Concern, and CRH are prepared to offer psychosocial programs in temporary shelters.  These services are sorely needed as many have lost homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. South Florida Sun Sentinel posted other reputable organizations active in the response here.


A number of other NGOs are expanding their programming. In the West, Grande Anse, Nippes, Southeast, South, Center and Northwest Departments, CARE, Caritas, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), World Vision, ACDI/VOCA, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Project Medishare and Medecins du Monde (MDM) Swiss are all providing assistance to survivors. 


Wyclef Jean was there during the flooding of Gonaives in 2004 and played an active role.  He has now launched a "Haiti Storm Relief Fund" to provide food, water, purification
tablets, tents, blankets, medical supplies, hygiene kits as well as funds to a number of non-profit organizations working on the ground to respond to the emergency. Yele Haiti is working closely with the Pan American Development Foundation and the WFP.


Digicel, the fastest growing mobile company in the Caribbean, has committed US$1 million to support the relief efforts. Digicel's US$1 million commitment comprises $400K of aid support to NGOs, $400K of free minutes and other mobile services and a further $200K of direct aid distribution across Haiti. In partnership with the Red Cross, Food for the Poor, Catholic Relief Services, Concern and Agerca, Digicel's NGO donation of US$ 400k will help to get aid to some of the worst affected areas of Haiti.


I would like to thank everyone who has contacted us asking how they can help.  The best thing to do would be to make a cash donation online to some of the non-governmental or international organizations providing assistance.  Don't send canned food - food can be purchased in Haiti or, as a last resort, in nearby countries.  Canned food will just block up the ports and go unused.  


There are many good organizations involved in this response.  The needs are great and you can help them make a difference.  Please let us know if you have any questions as we would be happy to assist.




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