With the Atlantic hurricane season in full flight, leaving a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, GOAL is helping vulnerable communities in Haiti prepare for devastating storms.
Already nine people in Haiti have lost their lives due to Hurricane Laura which devastated parts of the southern United States and the Carribbean in recent days. In 2014, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, leaving over 550 people dead and 35,000 homeless.
GOAL Haiti responds to these disasters and is continuously monitoring hurricane activity in the region, working closely with the Civilian Protection Directorate to exchange information on the latest weather trends and communities likely to be affected. As storms move inland towards the Caribbean islands, they often grow in strength and thus need continuous monitoring. Advanced preparation is key to supporting communities but due to the changing nature of storms there is often only limited windows of opportunity to do so.
The key area in which GOAL helps vulnerable communities prepare for hurricanes is via messaging, using posters, flyers and radio campaigns. In addition, using its Community-Led Action approach GOAL provides potentially live-saving safety tips, including details on when a storm will hit, how strong it will be, where is safest to shelter during the storm and where to seek emergency help or shelter if needed.
GOAL Assistant Director of Country Programmes, Cecile Marie Ann Lespinasse, said: “In the days leading up to a storm, GOAL will visit communities to ensure people are aware of the potential dangers and have the necessary preparations.”
Once the storm has passed and it is safe to travel, GOAL assesses the damage in the community and works to provide people with items such as food, cash, plastic sheeting and blankets where necessary.
In the context of COVID-19, these storms carry extra danger as hurricanes regularly damage water and sanitation infrastructure. If these become damaged or unavailable in the coming weeks, this could seriously hamper the efforts to contain the virus in Haiti as people will be less able to maintain personal hygiene. In the past, this has been a problem and has seen the spread of diseases such as Cholera.
To date, Haiti has seen over 7,000 cases of COVID-19 and thus protecting communities from hurricanes has increased importance in 2020.