'Secondary Disaster' Concerns Raised as Haiti's Hurricane Season Nears

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By Aaron J. Leichman, Christian Post Reporter
May 19, 2010|11:56 pm

International Christian relief agency World Vision is urging the government of Haiti and the international community to treat disaster risk reduction as a critical component of the country's long-term recovery and reconstruction plans as the upcoming hurricane season could create a secondary disaster for Haitians.

"While we continue to focus on the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of another disaster as the hurricane season approaches," said Jean-Claude Mukadi, World Vision's relief response manager in Haiti, in a report Tuesday. "While we can't prevent disasters like earthquakes and floods, we must focus on preventing the effects of these disasters on those at risk in Haiti."

It has been four months since the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake struck Haiti, leaving about a quarter million of the country's nine million people dead and at least 1.3 million homeless.

Though foreign governments, multilateral institutions and non-governmental organizations pledged in March a total of $9.9 billion for reconstruction and improving the country's economy, the issue of how to provide solid shelter for the homeless remains the most pressing – especially with the hurricane season set to commence in June.

With months needed to rebuild the thousands of homes that were destroyed by the magnitude-7.0 quake, World Vision is calling on the government of Haiti and the international community to include disaster risk reduction in long-term rebuilding plans, with a minimum of 10 percent of total humanitarian funding made available for disaster risk reduction interventions.

Investing in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction is also far less costly than dealing with the aftermath, World Vision pointed out Tuesday. Some estimate that for every dollar spent on risk reduction, at least four dollars are saved, it added.

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"We know disaster risk reduction can save lives; we saw it work in Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr struck in 2007,” noted Melisa Bodenhamer, World Vision's senior advisor on disaster risk reduction.

“Sadly, that cyclone killed 3,400 people, but an equally-powerful cyclone there in 1991 killed more than 143,000 Bangladeshis," she reported.

"Today in that country, communities are more prepared in the event that another catastrophic event like that should occur. It is our hope that by implementing similar disaster risk reduction activities, Haiti will see the same success in the years to come," Bodenhamer concluded.

In 2008, Haiti was hit by four severe hurricanes that left the country struggling to recover.

World Vision said Haitians are exposed to growing and complex threats that result from natural disasters, high levels of poverty, severe environmental degradation, and increased vulnerability.

The organization is currently working with the government of Haiti and other international organizations on a contingency plan to prepare Haiti for the hurricane season.

 

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