Monday 19 November 2012
ShelterBox in Haiti after Hurricane SandyPhotograph by Josh Mohr.
ShelterBox has been working across the Caribbean to assess the need for emergency shelter following destructive Hurricane Sandy.
The catastrophe has been just one of many to hit the small nation of Haiti in recent years. In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island, leaving an estimated one million people homeless, many of whom are still living in camps, and in August, Tropical Storm Isaac wreaked havoc across the south of the country. As a result of these disasters, the ongoing aid effort, and recent flooding in the north, the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) in country is being challenged with a complex set of circumstances.
‘The situation in Haiti is unlike anything I’ve seen before,’ said James Webb, SRT volunteer. ‘Following Hurricane Sandy, there are reports of over 30,000 homes destroyed, damaged or flooded, and now, heavy rains have resulted in extreme flooding in the far north of the country.’
The team has been liaising with several partner agencies, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Handicap International, to identify where the greatest need for ShelterBoxes is.
Photograph by Josh Mohr.
‘Thanks to ShelterBox’s forward planning, we already have 448 boxes in Haiti. The real challenge will be ensuring we don’t negatively affect the ongoing, long-term recovery of the country. Two and a half years after the earthquake, tents should be a last resort for families as the government and humanitarian community are reluctant to see ‘tent cities’ spring up again. We’ve been working on a long term project with IOM to try and find a more permanent solution for families and we don’t want to affect that continued work.’
Hurricane Sandy and the recent flooding have also resulted in a new cholera outbreak and food insecurity, with an estimated 1.5 million people affected by food shortages after the disasters destroyed crops.
‘The situation is horrendous. In a country where the population has been through so much, there is an overwhelming desire to make the best of a bad situation but it’s hard when there’s one crisis after another. We’re surrounded by extreme poverty.’
The team is travelling to the north of the country today and will start assessments immediately. If ShelterBoxes are identified as an appropriate form of aid, the team will work with ShelterBox partners to begin distributions as soon as possible.
ShelterBox has also been distributing blankets to Sandy survivors in New York and New Jersey in the USA in support of rescue and recovery efforts following the disaster. Meanwhile an SRT in Cuba found there to be no need for emergency shelter.