23 Haitians die in storms due to inadequate shelter

     Read today’s Miami Herald article on the recent storm-related deaths of 23 Haitians due to inadequate shelter access, in which both  ActionAid USA and ActionAid Haiti are quoted: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/07/v-print/2255876/death-toll-rises-to-23-as-heavy.html#ixzz1Oe6kApFQ 

    Our ActionAid Haiti staff has confirmed that the recent storm has left many parts of Port-au-Prince, as well as several areas outside  of the capitol, in a state of devastating flooding and mudslides. They agree that the recent deaths of at least 23 Haitians are directly linked to inadequate shelter and/or housing, with roofs that have collapsed in on people. To quote our ActionAid Haiti Emergency and Human Security Coordinator, Alce Jean Baptiste, “The great vulnerability of both Port-au-Prince at the country as a whole is clearly evident in the aftermath of this most recent storm. Disaster risk reduction and mitigation plans have not been put into place and any existing plans do not include a detailed blueprint or needed consultation from grassroots groups on the ground.”

ActionAid works in 7 camp communities through our local partner, COZPAM (Community Organizations of the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Zone). One of our Mariani camp leaders, Saintilme Marie Charles Juste Luce and a recent ambassador to the US for our Haiti Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, gave this perspective from on the ground.  “It’s really urgent that we leave the tents. They are seriously degraded and continue to expose us to all sorts of dangers, especially us women and our daughters. The situation becomes even worse with the rainy season. The rains of recent days, for example, forced us to spend whole nights standing. You can imagine the plight of pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and the disabled.”

Our staff believes that the new Martelly administration and government must strongly reinforce the existing national emergency response system and create a comprehensive disaster preparedness and mitigation plan that is done through direct consultation with grassroots groups, camp leaders and vulnerable communities. Disaster mitigation must be prioritized not only in Port-au-Prince, but in vulnerable communities throughout the country that are at risk of severe flooding. Our own organization works closely with vulnerable communities and grassroots organizations in following a participatory consultation model in order to help mitigate the incoming hurricane season. We have worked with our Haitian partners to implement a Participatory Vulnerability Analysis and Community Training Program throughout the Grande Anse department in order to train, mobilize and do collective disaster preparedness planning with vulnerable communities. We have seen significant improvements in these communities and a greater ability to respond to storms and hurricanes in a more timely, collaborative manner.

These storms have clearly demonstrated the need for the Haitian government, US government, UN and international NGO’s to work more directly with vulnerable communities and grassroots networks in order to build civil protection capacity and disaster mitigation structures in country. In addition, the storm reflects the urgent need for the Haitian state to implement a long-term housing strategy that focuses not only on short-term shelter and relocation needs, but long-term access to safe, affordable housing for the most vulnerable.

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