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Friday 31 August 2012

Haiti had 'lucky' escape from Isaac storm
Haiti had 'lucky' escape from Isaac storm SRT member Jeff Pietras talking with Nalise Noel about her experience living in a ShelterBox tent, August 2012.

There is less need for emergency shelter in Haiti than expected in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, according to a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) currently responding to the disaster in the Caribbean island.

SRT members Mark Dyer (US) and Jeff Pietras (US) arrived in the capital Port-au-Prince on 27 August to assess the damage and need for emergency shelter, the day following the destructive path of Isaac.

Defying warnings made by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm never developed into a hurricane as it hit Haiti. Nevertheless coastal regions were battered with heavy rain and strong winds in excess of 105 kilometres-an-hour throughout the evening and early hours of the morning on 25-26 August.

'Me and Jeff are working in country with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and local municipalities to identify humanitarian need for emergency shelter,' said Mark.

Vulnerability

'With an estimated 300,000 Haitians sill living in tented camps following the earthquake in 2010, the vulnerability of the population is still very much evident.'

The storm's force was felt the most in southeastern Haiti, especially the coastal towns around Jacmel, Cayes Jacmel and Marigot.

In the south, widespread flooding was evident; many roads were washed out, banana plantations were destroyed, and several hundred homes were damaged or in a state of disrepair.

'When we visited these areas floodwaters were already subsiding and repairs were underway,' said Jeff. 'The need for emergency shelter seems less a priority than preventative health and sanitation measures to avoid waterborne diseases.'

Isaac largely spared the populated Port-au-Prince and other western areas of Haiti, where many of the larger camps from the earthquake remain.

The SRT visited several sites where a number of ShelterBox tents remain in good condition several years on and with no visible damage from the passing storm.

Thankful

Nalise Noel is a resident in a camp near western Leogane. She spoke to Jeff about her experience weathering the storm:

'I was very scared the night of the storm, especially with so much water and wind outside. I feared to leave my belongings behind, so I stayed inside my tent which I have lived in for the past two years. My tent is strong though. It keeps out running water and stays fixed when the winds blow hard. I am thankful for this tent, which is my home.'

However, a need for shelter has been found in the rural areas around Belle Anse along the coast east of Jacmel by one of ShelterBox's partners Handicap International.

Deliver ShelterBoxes

Their teams reported more significant damage in the isolated hard-to-reach area with over 1,000 displaced families.

Subsequently, Jeff and Mark will work with Handicap International and IOM to transport and deliver ShelterBoxes already in country to those families in need.

The Haitian Civil Protection (DPC) and IOM evacuated thousands of people from camps to safe shelters as the storm hit. Once it passed over they returned to the camps with shelter materials, hygiene kits and other aid where necessary.

Lucky

'The camps got lucky this time and dodged a bullet,' said IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Luca Dall'Oglio. 'But they will not always be so lucky and the international community needs to act now to close all the camps by providing rental subsidies and housing solutions for those living there. The social and financial costs of evacuating a camp population every time there is a major storm can far outstrip the cost of providing housing rental solutions.

'The rapid response was a credit to the hard work of preparedness and coordination which the State, through the DPC and humanitarian actors, have been engaged in.'
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