Rainy season has begun, a time of year that typically brings downpours, flooding and hurricanes. In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne caused deadly flash-floods and mudslides in Gonaives, Haiti’s third largest city, causing over 3,000 deaths and leaving roughly 200,000 homeless. In 2008, about 800,000 people were affected by seasonal floods.
According to news reports, an estimated 250,000 people living under tarps and tents in 21 camps around Port-au-Prince are at risk of flooding. Mercy Corps’ Haiti team warns that heavy rains could make an already desperate situation much worse:
- Heavy rains could severely disrupt aid efforts and make sanitation and hygiene issues dire, which could lead to outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
- Flooding could easily knock out the tents where so many people live, leaving them without any kind of shelter.
- The risk of landslides could cause injury or death, especially for sites such as Cité Bob, which is perched on the side of a cliff. Landslides could block roads, making it impossible for trucks to deliver water to the kiosks which supply camp residents.
- Stored firewood or charcoal could become wet and unusable, leaving families without any way of eating foods that need to be cooked, such as rice or dried beans.
Here's what we're doing about it:
- Our cash-for-work and water and sanitation programs in three camps in Port-au-Prince have paid survivors for 20-days of work to dig drainage channels and build flood protection structures and drains in high flood-risk areas.
- We have installed 114 temporary latrines, giving families in 28 camps access to improved sanitation, which is critical for maintaining disease-free living conditions during the rainy season.
- We have distributed nearly 3,500 hygiene kits to families, which contain a 1-month supply of household items that are especially important as the threat of water-borne disease increases.
- We are disseminating information on good health practices to families. Our hygiene promotion program focuses on three key messages: the importance of hand-washing, using water purification tablets and keeping latrines clean.
We'll continue to update you about what we're doing to protect the many Haitian families living in camps and help them rebuild their lives.