Haiti: Bracing For The Hurricane Season

Published on 13 April 2010

Flooding in the northwestern town of Gonaives in the wake of a hurricane which hit Haiti in 2004.

(Copyright: WFP/Belkacem Machane)

Haiti's epic earthquake struck exactly three months ago. While the country recovers, the annual hurricane season looms -- just seven weeks away.   In 2008, three hurricanes  and one tropical storm lashed Haiti, killing 800 people, destroying 27,000 homes and triggering a severe hunger crisis.

ROME -- While hurricanes spared the Caribbean island in 2009, no one can say whether they will again this year. If they strike, more misery will unfold in a country which has already suffered too much.

But the misery will be less if the country is prepared.

“There is much we can do to make sure that the necessary food and other life-saving supplies are in key positions so that if the floods hit, we and our partners can ensure immediate delivery,” said Myrta Kaulard, WFP Haiti Country Representative. 

Being Ready

Preparing for emergencies is a key part of WFP’s work and it has many sides. As well as pre-positioning food and planning transport routes, it’s also about having up-to-date information available to staff on the ground and in HQ though sophisticated mapping. Watch video

Pre-positioning food

WFP and its partners are increasing the number of pre-positioning locations from 15 to 20 and improving warehousing capacity to handle the storage of food and essential shelter items required in all 10 departments. 

WFP will also install semi-permanent warehouses throughout the country. High energy biscuits will be stored in preparation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and there is already some 20,000 tons of food in various locations around the country.

It was thanks to pre-positioned of food and supplies that WFP was able to respond within 24 hours of the January 12 earthquake.

One of the key problems when Haiti is hit by torrential rains is that many key roads are blocked by floods or landslides. Route 204, the one connecting Port-au-Prince to Jacmel in the south and Cap Haitien in the north, is particularly susceptible.

Sea routes

That’s why WFP, which leads logistics operations for the humanitarian community in Haiti is establishing new sea routes as alternatives when transporting food and supplies by road becomes impossible.

WFP is setting up a system of barges, which will be able to transport humanitarian supplies from Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo along the coast to the ports of Jacmel, Cap Haitien and Gonaives. See map

Rains have already begun and will intensify quickly over the coming weeks and months.  The hurricane season runs from June to November.

“Haitians have suffered immensely from natural disasters and now they have to brace for yet another one,” said Kaulard. “As head of the Logistics Cluster, we are doing everything we can to prepare for the hurricane season."

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Martin Penner

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Martin Penner, a former journalist, has worked for WFP since 2008.