Haiti Prepares for the Rainy Season
As Haiti continues to recover from the January 12 earthquake, the rainy season looms near and could bring with it more worries for the people of Haiti. Reports indicate that the rains have already started, but the expected hard rains are yet to come. The worry is that the rains could turn into hurricanes and cause more suffering, depending on their strength. While the rains spared Haiti in 2009, it is vital that the humanitarian community prepare for this year’s rainy season.
In 2008, four major storms affected Haiti. The three hurricanes and one tropical storm killed hundreds of people, destroyed thousands of homes and were implicated in the start of the food crisis in Haiti. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has been in Haiti since those storms, and now they are preparing, should the hurricane season devastate Haiti again.
The ground in Haiti cannot absorb rain as quickly as it falls, which can lead to many inches of rainwater washing through the streets - the same streets which many people are still calling home. A Christian Science Monitor article warns that, “Of the 1.3 million people displaced by the Jan. 12 quake, about 80 percent are now living in tents or shelters – but many are in flood plains and susceptible to mud slides.” The article goes on to describe one attempt by the humanitarian community to move displaced people to a nearby plateau. Various organizations are offering rain resistant tents, and while they acknowledge that moving people to a temporary location may not be the best solution, in the short term having people at higher ground will save lives.
WFP is preparing by increasing the amount of food available regionally, which will allow it to respond with assistance quickly if the worst happens. An important consideration for WFP is also how to mobilize food. The rains can cause floods and mudslides, which block key delivery routes. With this in mind, WFP is already planning new sea routes, so that food moves by ship if the roads are obstructed.
The hurricane season runs from June to November; and now we have to hope that the Haitian government, local nongovernmental organizations and the people of Haiti are prepared for the rains.
Friends of WFP