Tropical Storm Isaac in Haiti, Nearly Three Years After the Earthquake
By Geraldine Cook August 30, 2012
Water, food, medicine, blankets and tents. Haiti lacked all of it at first, when chaos and surprise seized the people of Haiti during the earthquake that devastated the country in January 2010.
Water, food, medicine, blankets and tents. Haiti lacked all of it at first, when chaos and surprise seized the people of Haiti during the earthquake that devastated the country in January 2010. Afterward, supplies were abundant. Aid arrived by the tons from every corner of the planet, but little by little it started to accumulate, because Haiti did not have official distribution channels or proper mechanisms in place to deliver the assistance. It did not have a contingency plan for emergencies. No one knew where they should be distributing the necessary products, and there was no organized manner to respond to the people still crying out for help.
On August 25, 2012 everything was different. When Tropical Storm Isaac started to hit the Haitian coast, more than 14,000 people across the country, mainly in the western and eastern parts of the island, were already evacuated thanks to the Haitian government and its international partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which anticipated the possible damage. In the history of the country, this was the first preventive evacuation led by the Haitian government.
The evacuees were already identified as members of vulnerable groups, such as refugees residing in camps, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities, according to a statement from the Haitian government. These planned and organized evacuations were held throughout the day on August 24, a day before the storm made landfall. Additionally, many urgent evacuations were made during the night and early morning of August 25, while the weather conditions worsened.
After the storm, a prompt and accurate damage assessment identified the most serious problems, and gave immediate assistance to people whose lives were at the greatest risk and required urgent attention.
On August 26, the United Nations (UN) reported a toll of 19 deaths and 2,350 homes destroyed. Though these are not small, they are a stark contrast to the toll left by the earthquake of 2010, which took the lives of more than 200,000, and about 2.5 million homeless, according to figures from the UN.
To assess Tropical Storm Isaac, the Haitian government and USAID used a team of experts in disaster response; all of which helped in the preparation of the storm, and are now determining the damages it caused, as well as where and what kind of humanitarian aid is needed. Preliminary reports indicate that the impact of the storm was more significant in Port-au-Prince and the southeastern departments of the country.
From day one, humanitarian organizations were distributing emergency supplies to the needy, including water, food, personal hygiene packs, blankets, and plastic sheeting, among other items and necessities. The difference now is that all these resources were already in-country, ready to be used in incidents like this.
Due in large part to the professional response and organization of the Haitian government before, during, and after Tropical Storm Isaac, countless and priceless lives have been saved. Lesson learned.