Port-au-Prince—Thousands of earthquake survivors living in camps are vulnerable to landslides and flooding due to hurricanes, according to an evaluation of camp sites carried out by international agency Oxfam. With the hurricane season beginning today, the Haitian government must urgently implement a public communications campaign to inform people about hurricane risks and how to respond in a weather emergency.
An evaluation of 28 sites where Oxfam works revealed serious risks of disasters in the event of a hurricane. The survey, carried out in three large zones in the capital and one outside Port-au-Prince, showed high risk of fire, flooding, epidemics and landslides. Extreme overcrowding, little natural drainage and weak structure of the land on which camps are built are major problems highlighted in the survey.
“We are responding with utmost speed to the findings of this survey, to prevent and mitigate threats in camps where we work. But people in these camps must have information about how to prepare for and respond to storms. The Government of Haiti has carried out public information campaigns in the past about hurricane preparedness. They must do so again this year, taking into account the fact that this year, it’s going to be even harder for Haitians to deal with these storms,” said Francis Lacasse, country director for Oxfam in Haiti.
Oxfam is working with the government’s Department of Civil Protection and with community committees to coordinate efforts on disaster response and preparedness. Specific current actions to prepare include improving drainage and helping communities place sandbags around their shelters to prevent flooding. Oxfam is also reinforcing emergency shelters and bringing contingency stock into Haiti.
Current estimates count over 1,000 spontaneous settlement sites in greater Port-au-Prince and over 1.5 million displaced people. During the 2008 hurricane season, four successive storms affected 800,000 people and caused $1 billion in damage. Oxfam responded to these disasters with immediate humanitarian support and was continuing to work on disaster risk reduction when the earthquake struck on January 12th.