It’s stiflingly hot here in Haiti, the fierce sun beating down and making life under the tarpaulin shelters unbearable for those in the camps. The relief comes when the clouds roll over the hills on the edge of Port-au-Prince and the first rain drops begin to fall. But relief quickly turns to discomfort as the heavens open and the rain pours in.
It has rained heavily the last two nights here, making conditions even more difficult. We have been preparing for the rains and the tarpaulins we have given do provide the minimum of shelter needed. This together with extra drainage, increasing numbers of latrines, clearing of rubbish, and the provision of bathing areas is improving conditions in the camps where we are working.
Yesterday we assessed the 30 most vulnerable camps to see what the impact of the rains had been. Ten vehicles went out, with experts in water and sanitation, relief, and health. We were looking for signs of shelter or latrines collapsing and drainage channels blocking or flooding. Of the 30, nine were identified as in need of additional immediate assistance in the forms of new shelters, latrines and extra drainage which we then proceeded to provide.
Most pleasing to me was that the two camps had not suffered any exceptional damage and that the community teams with whom we have been working were out and about checking the drainage channels, unblocking any accumulated rubbish, and making sure that the latrines were clean. The rains will get heavier and last longer, but this exercise showed we are moving in the right direction.
Looking back at the last three months of disaster response here in Haiti, so much has been done of which we should be pleased. British Red Cross alone has contributed more than 55 personnel to the wider international red cross effort of more than 1,000 international staff, committed over £10 million in funds with more to come as we enter the recovery phase. Don’t get me wrong, lots more needs to be done and at times here it an feel like two steps forward and one step back.
On a personal level it has been a stretching time for all of us in the disaster management department with the Haiti response demanding, and receiving, a high level of attention. We’ve not been neglecting other situations around the globe though as evidenced by our response to the Chile earthquake, conflict in Yemen, the deployment of a team to Mongolia’s severe winter emergency, drought in Niger and the monitoring of flooding in Brazil and conflict in Kyrgyzstan.
There’s no doubt though that the scale of needs, the pre-existing poverty and the damage to the country’s centralised infrastructure make Haiti in 2010 one of the biggest challenges the disaster management community has faced for many a year.
Donate now to the Red Cross Haiti earthquake appeal