NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–10 March 2010 – As Haiti begins to dig itself out of the rubble of January’s earthquake, UNICEF and its partners there are preparing to face another challenge – the rainy season.
Haitians have good reason to dread the annual spring and summer storms, even when their capital does not lie in ruins. In 2008, four hurricanes hit the country, leaving hundreds of people dead and entire cities buried in mud.
This year, before the season has even begun in earnest, Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane are largely destroyed. More than 200,000 people are dead and many thousands more injured. About 1.3 million people are homeless and dependent on international aid agencies for the necessities of life; some 450,000 of the displaced are children
‘A huge challenge’
“It will create a huge challenge for all of us in terms of being able to provide support for people,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Louis-Georges Arsenault.
The devastation caused by the earthquake has added another level of logistical difficulty to storm preparations. Aid agencies are racing to move people out of low-lying areas and prepare for the increased health threats that accompany the rains.
Already, at least eight people have been killed in floods that were exacerbated by earthquake debris in south-western Haiti. More than 3,000 people were evacuated.
In and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, more than 680,000 people continue to live in makeshift settlements – this despite an exodus of hundreds of thousands who continue to fan out, seeking safety and shelter in other areas.
Planning for the future
“People have fled Port-au-Prince, and spontaneous sites have spread out throughout the country,” said Mr. Arsenault. “It’s not easy to reach these people, so we need to have the operational capacity to move around, which we are now addressing very seriously.”
In addition to meeting the immediate needs of children and families, and preparing for the rainy season, UNICEF is planning for the future along with partners such as the European Commission, the World Bank and the wider UN family.
“We are looking at reconstruction starting this year. In 2010, there has to be a strong reconstruction effort,” said Mr. Arsenault. “We’re involved on the long-term vision of what will constitute a better place for children in Haiti – not going back to where we were, but transforming the society to be a better place for children.”