Tomas threatens half a million in Haiti

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Port-au-Prince. As Haiti braces itself for heavy rains, storm surges and flooding the length of the country, ACT Alliance members are evacuating people from the camps they have called home since the January earthquake.  The brunt of the storm will be felt on the south coast, and more than half a million people may be forced to seek safety elsewhere, says the international aid network.

With 1.3m people still under canvas, authorities have compelled them to leave for the safety of family and friends elsewhere.

ACT Alliance emergency response coordinator, Geneviève Cyvoct, said today “The third disaster Haiti is facing at the same time is stretching the limits of aid organisations. We still have the capacity to respond to the storm, but the past months have been difficult for everyone concerned”, said Cyvoct who is the ACT Alliance Emergency Response Coordinator in Haiti.

The storm is putting people who are still living in camps in risk. ACT Alliance members have tents, tarpaulins and other items at the ready so that aid can be delivered quickly and effectively as needed.

“People in the camps have in general been asked to take refuge with families and friends. As this won’t be possible for all the people, schools in Jacmel will be used as emergency shelters”, says Astrid Nissen, Head of Mission to the ACT Alliance member Diakonie Katastrofenhilfe (DKH), which works in Jacmel.

DKH is about to start evacuating people from two of their camps later on Thursday night, an operation that will involve around 1500 people.

As preparations for the storm gather momentum, ACT Alliance is ensuring that information on Tomas is shared with its partners who will in turn inform local people. Several Christian Aid partners are evacuating and relocating people who have been displaced to safer areas areas. They are also working closely with government authorities around the country.

“Our partners KORAL and GARR are working directly with the state to respond to Tomas in the South, Nippes and Grand Anse Departments. They are especially active in the committees of the Department of Civil Protection which is, with the support of NGOs and UN, taking the lead in the emergency preparedness and contingency planning”, says Harold Paul, Regional Emergency Manager of Christian Aid.

The Health Cluster is anticipating that the cholera epidemic may spread further due to possible flooding and population movement provoked by tropical storm Tomas. ACT Alliance is therefore taking immediate steps to prevent the disease spreading further.

ACT members are continuing to provide beneficiaries with clean water, water purification tablets and hygiene kits. They have stocked up on items that will be needed in the coming days, and redoubled their drive to raise information and awareness - first to protect people against cholera, but in the last few days to include preparations for the cyclone.

Cholera prevention is now more important than ever

ACT Alliance emphasises that in this situation it is even more important to pay attention to cholera prevention.

“In addition to all work already being done, we are prepared to repair damaged sanitation facilities, such as latrines, showers and hand washing systems, and the water provision systems in the camps where we work.  We will also need to clean the camps together with camp managers and pump water out of flooded areas. Other needs will be evaluated on a case by case basis, but prevention of cholera will remain our top priority”, says Sylvia Raulo, Head of Mission for Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).

As soon as the storm dies down, ACT Alliance members will be sending out teams to assess the damage.

For further information of the overall ACT Alliance response:

Geneviève Cyvoct, Coordinator for the ACT Emergency Response in Haiti +509 3485 8698
Maria Halava, ACT Alliance Communications and Advocacy Advisor in Haiti +509 3900 5237

Haiti: after the earthquake