HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 3 — The Haitian government, humanitarian agencies and the Mission of the UN Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) put in place a contingency plan for dealing with Hurricane Tomas, which is close to the island and may affect up half million people. [Tomas is currently a Tropical Depression but is expected to regain hurricane strength by Friday.]
Since 24 hours, the Haitian authorities, UN agencies and NGOs, who already manage the post-earthquake and a cholera epidemic that hit the island for ten days, working together to pre-positioned stocks of aid and now prepare to face the hurricane Tomas.
“This storm could not have come at a more difficult time. Although we have made some extensive preparations and prepositioned stocks across the country, some crucial supplies have been badly depleted by ongoing needs, particularly the response to the ongoing cholera epidemic”, said Nigel Fisher, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti.
“With the government, we started to prepare ourselves with what we have, for example by increasing aid distributions in IDP camps and sending trucks to the south coast of the island, but we are now engaged in a race to mobilize what we lack and we need” he added.
The DPC and the humanitarian community are using the planning figure of 100,000 families (500,000 people) to be affected by the hurricane in the west and southern departments. The humanitarian community has assessed its current stock of available material and the following gaps have been identified:
- Tarpaulins: 150,000
- Field tents: 200
- Blankets: 100,000
- Jerry cans: 150,000
- Bars of soap: 90,000
- Water purification tablets: at least 90,000
- Hygiene kits: 90,000
- Buckets: 90,000
- Emergency kits to supply 10,000 people for 3 months: 4
- Oral rehydration salt sachets: 200,000
- Chainsaws to cut trees
- Water bladders: number to be determined
As well as support with logistics, and windup radios and megaphones to support ongoing public information about cholera and hurricane warnings.
WFP has prepositioned 1,100 metric tonnes of high energy biscuits, 12,800 metric tonnes of food baskets and 2 million humanitarian daily rations. WFP has worked with the Government and NGO partners to put this in place. In Haiti, WFP currently has 52,000 metric tonnes of mixed commodities such as rice, beans, corn-soya blend, salt, sugar, oil, Supplementary Plumpy, Plumpy Doz and humanitarian daily rations in stock.
“We need emergency shelter. We need water and sanitation supplies. And we need as much of it as possible in place before Hurricane Tomas hits,” sais Nigel Fisher. “With our Haitian counterparts, we are appealing to donors, to organizations in the region and to humanitarian partners to help us get what we need in time.”
Most of the shortages relate to stocks depleted as a result of cholera epidemic and to shelter. Although tarpaulins and tents are routinely imported into Haiti, they are usually immediately distributed to families in need in the camps to help protect them against daily rains, making stockpiling extremely difficult. Stocks were also depleted by a major storm on 24 September.
Preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Tomas began on 30 October, with regional stocks of tarpaulins being mobilised from Panama. All terrain trucks containing enough fuel to be self sufficient for seven days in anticipation of roads being cut off were dispatched to key hubs along the South Coast.
In Port au Prince, where people in camps are acutely vulnerable to both wind and rain, all stocks of rope and tarpaulin were mobilised for distribution in camps on 31 October, to help camp residents tie down their property. Information campaigns have been scaled up to raise awareness of warnings and the need to prepare, and where possible people are being moved into any available transitional shelters. The Direction Protection Civile, the government body responsible for disaster response, has begun advising those in camps, in the South and in flood prone across the country, to seek shelter with friends and family in secure houses as the best way to protect themselves.
Planning for the impact of Hurricane Tomas also includes continuing to manage and incorporate the ongoing response to the cholera, as well as the response to the earthquake. Plans for management of cholera patients during a storm were being finalized today, as cholera treatment centres are not hurricane proof. Chlorine levels in water supplied to the camps, and to the general supply in Port au Prince, have already been increased, and public information campaigns are being scaled up, particularly in areas under threat from Hurricane Tomas.
“This storm is approaching at a time when aid agencies in Haiti are already stretched to the limit,” said Mr. Fisher “We will be running three major operations simultaneously. The humanitarian challenges involved are among the most complex I have seen in my entire career” he concluded.
According to press reports, quoting the U.S. National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Tomas was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday but should be strengthened by pursuing its way to Haiti. It has already caused damage Saturday and power cuts on the islands of St. Lucia (14 dead) and St. Vincent in the Windward Islands archipelago, south of Martinique.