While the East Coast of the United States is prominent in the news after Hurricane Sandy, families in Haiti are also struggling to recover from its aftermath.
Although the storm did not directly touch Haiti, the country received an unprecedented level of rain. The heavy downpour continued for over 72 hours, resulting in severe flooding in the lowlands of the island.
Sandy: widespread destruction
The destruction is widespread: homes and crops are damaged; livestock has died. Haiti is extremely mountainous, with only two percent of its original forest cover remaining, making it highly vulnerable to flooding and landslides.
Grande Anse and Leogane, where CARE is currently active, were badly hit. Over 6,500 homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed, with approximately 7,500 people displaced.
“From Haiti and the Caribbean to the northeastern United States, the breadth of the damage caused by Sandy is unlike anything most of us have ever seen,” says Jean-Michel Vigreaux, CARE’s country director in Haiti. “We’re hopeful that people in communities that were not affected by the storm will do what they can to support relief efforts in the worst-hit areas.”
However, a complete overview is sketchy at best as access to many areas, particularly in the Grande Anse, is difficult. The main route is inundated in places with a key bridge destroyed and other routes are not passable by vehicles. Boats and airplanes are currently the only means to transport relief quickly.
Overall in the country, the Haitian National Emergency Center reports a total of 7,627 families (approximately 38,000 individuals) have been affected. Forty-four deaths are reported and at least 19 people were gravely injured.
CARE's emergency response in Haiti
CARE Haiti had been preparing for a possible emergency response in Grand Anse and Leogane before the hurricane hit the country. The emergency team is now planning to support affected people with clean water. In many areas, water points have been damaged. This has left the population dependent on river water, which is especially dangerous due to its elevated levels, but also poses a cholera risk.
CARE will distribute aqua tabs to purify water, soap and jerry cans in Grand Anse. CARE Haiti’s water and sanitation team may also install water bladders as needed. CARE will also assess current project sites and cholera treatment centres to determine the level of repair required to re-establish access to potable water and sanitation facilities.
In Leogane, especially in the areas of Saria and Bino, CARE is working closely with other organisations. In Saria and Bino, 300 families lost their homes and all their possessions. CARE has more than 40 trained staff, including , water and sanitation experts, people who train and inform their communities about the importance of clean water, as well as engineers that are available to assist other organisations in emergency assistance.
Hurricane hits Cuba
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Cuba on October 25, striking the south-eastern part of the country. According to UN estimates, approximately 180,000 houses have been damaged, including 50,000 which lost their roofs entirely. The 96,980 hectares of crops that were damaged by the storm, have implications for the rest of the island. Eastern Cuba produces much of Cuba’s staple crops.
Christina Polzot, CARE’s Representative in Cuba said:
“This is one of the most severe hurricanes to hit Eastern Cuba. Despite very good preparedness on the part of Cuban authorities, people were less prepared because the storm followed an unusual trajectory, and directly affected the city of Santiago de Cuba – which is not usually in the path of Caribbean hurricanes.
“The Cuban Government coordinated the evacuation of 343,230 people, many of which remain seeking shelter with extended family, which creates significant over-crowding in these homes.”
People urgently need materials to repair and rebuild their homes, particularly roofs. Tools, family essentials and hygiene supplies are also needed. CARE is coordination with its local partners and the Cuban Government in support of the emergency response. CARE Cuba plans to focus in particular on reaching female-headed households, which often face the worst situations in the aftermath of a disaster.