Hurricane Irma: Oxfam in Haiti focuses on likely damage to water and sanitation facilities

Hurricane Irma: Oxfam in Haiti focuses on likely damage to water and sanitation facilities

Some areas in Haiti have not recovered from Hurricane Matthew - and now they face Irma

Thursday 7th September 2017

Many supermarket shelves in northern Haiti are now empty and people in coastal areas are being evacuated inland to schools and public buildings in preparation for the worst of Hurricane Irma today and tomorrow.

In Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second city with a population of 280,000, Oxfam’s 27-person team is urgently working with authorities to assist the evacuation. The government has prepared 793 temporary shelters across seven departments and, together with Oxfam and other agencies, is trying to move as many people away from the coast.

Tania Escamilla, Regional Communications Coordinator with Oxfam who arrived in Cap Haitien on Wednesday, said: “I get the sense that people here are used to hurricanes and no-one seems frantically scared, but I’ve heard from many that some areas of the country haven’t even fully recovered from Hurricane Matthew last year – and now they’re facing this.

“While many are moving, there are quite a few people who have decided not to evacuate but to stay put instead, afraid to lose their belongings and home.”

The Oxfam team in Cap Haitien is already preparing to mount emergency repairs to water and sanitation facilities, under the DINEPA division of the Ministry of Public Works.

Escamilla continued: ““Overall, we fear that half-a-million people could be affected even in the best-case scenario – or as many as 3 million in the worst.

“My engineering and humanitarian colleagues tell me that although cholera cases are considered low and under control at the moment, the disease remains their biggest concern should the storm wreck infrastructure.

“Haiti’s geography and environment – and level of poverty – make people extremely vulnerable to flooding and landslides. The damage that could likely happen from the winds and storm surge would be devastating for a large part of Cap Haitien and surrounding towns”

In Haiti, Oxfam has moved emergency aid into five locations across the country, three of which are in northern areas that will be the most exposed to the hurricane’s impact. Already four teams, made up of five or more specialists in emergencies, have been mobilised in Cap-Haitien, Ouanaminthe, Anse-Rouge and Gonaives. Oxfam also has nine cholera response teams now ready to deploy.

Oxfam teams in Dominican Republic and Cuba are also preparing to respond. Oxfam has worked in the Caribbean region for over 30 years and has expert teams in providing safe water and carrying out sanitation and hygiene work to prevent the spread of deadly diseases among those most vulnerable when an emergency strikes.

ENDS

CONTACT: Oxfam spokespeople are available. To arrange an interview or for more information, contact:

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org