Haiti: Helping isolated families protect themselves

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After devastating several Caribbean islands, Hurricane Irma is moving toward Haiti’s northern coastline. People living in this disaster-prone country with frail infrastructure and ill-equipped emergency services are preparing for the worst. Since 2013, our teams have been helping isolated and vulnerable individuals protect themselves in natural disasters like Irma through our disaster risk reduction project.

When rivers break their banks or landslides block roads, people are at risk of being cut off from the rest of the country for days, possibly weeks. To ensure these individuals are able to take shelter or protect their homes, our team provides families with kits containing torches, radios, waterproof sleeves and plastic sheets, particularly in the south of the country.

The disaster risk reduction team also makes sure that people understand the importance of sheltering in well-constructed buildings, such as schools and colleges, during alerts. Our goal is to ensure that vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, can access these establishments. That’s why we improved access to these buildings by adding sloping ramps for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

For several months, our team has been working with the authorities, including the Haiti Civil Protection Unit and disabled people’s organizations to ensure people with disabilities are included in emergency response. Our goal would be to ensure no one is left on the sidelines when aid is available, and that people with disabilities, chronic conditions, as well as older adults receive the vital care they will need in the storm's wake.

Haiti: A disaster-prone country

Out of 56 internationally recognized disasters recorded in Haiti, 20 major events occurred in the 20th century and four in the last decade. On a global scale, Haiti is the third country most affected by extreme weather events, according to the global climate risk index published in 2016 by Germanwatch.

HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL IN HAITI

Present in Haiti since 2008, Handicap International intervened following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and during the 2010 earthquake by providing rehabilitation, logistics support, basic needs (shelter, cooking kits, etc.), psychosocial support, and other specific needs for people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.