How do we limit the impact of disasters in a country with a very high risk index?

Source(s): Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development

01/12/2010, Just before 17:00: an earthquake of 7.3 on the Richter scale strikes Haiti. 280,000 are killed, 300,00 injured. 1.5 million people are affected.

11 years on, despite the significant headway made towards improving the national-level management of catastrophes, high levels of risk and vulnerability remain, aggravated by the poverty in which 80% of Haitians live. A chronic social-political crisis continues to hinder access to already limited basic services and natural hazards, stoked by climate change, become increasing violent and unpredictable.

ACTED is working hand in hand with Haitian communities to help them better control and manage the risks they face from future catastrophes. ACTED thus strives to find sustainable solutions for reconstruction, protection of communities and the prevention of catastrophes.

Creating contingency plans to ensure a rapid and coordinated response in the face of disaster

ACTED develops contingency plans to deploy during the cyclone season. These plans allow the prepositioning of emergency shelter materials, school supplies and hygiene items (mobile latrines and water points) in the areas most at risk (notably those most likely to be cut off in the case of a catastrophe).

Due to their mountainous terrain, many villages in the Mornes, the country interior, find themselves totally isolated in the wake of tempests, floods and landslides. The coastal areas, in their turn, are ravaged by the violence of meteorological hazards which block supply routes. Contingency stocks allow a rapid response in the case of crisis and save lives.

In parallel and in alignment with local authorities and national-level response plans, ACTED organises simulations of these contingency plans in the communities facing the highest risks. These simulations contribute to good preparedness for the organized, coordinated and streamlined implementation of emergency measures in the case of disasters – measures that can save lives, preserve critical infrastructure and facilitate a faster recovery.

Building back better to ensure protection against the impacts of disasters

The question of reconstruction following earthquakes poses a colossal challenge: the task of rehousing over 1.5 million people takes place in a context in which land and property ownership is unclear and traditional construction approaches do little to protect households from the wind and water.

ACTED’s team favourises ‘Build Back Safer’ techniques in the reconstruction of housing, respecting the para-seismic and para-cyclonic nature of the terrain while safeguarding local cultural heritage. ACTED relies on local know-how and labour, and is thus helping local construction workers integrate these improved construction techniques into the new shelters. This approach that ensures ownership of these best practices over the long term.

Reinforcing resilience - a key step in reducing natural disaster risks

Emergency humanitarian aid remains vital in assisting victims if disasters. If we are unable to avoid disasters, at least we can prepare for them through encouraging their control and management at every level: community, local and national. This can sustainably reduce disaster impact and minimize the effects upon communities already living in poverty.

Haiti will continue to live with catastrophes. The country, which ranks fifth among the nations most exposed to natural disasters by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), finds itself in the trajectory of tropical cyclones, hurricanes and the tempests which frequent the Caribbean Basin. The country is also located on the fault line between the North American Plate and the South American Plate, the source of its seismologic activity. Haiti is also bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change, which is causing intense floods and droughts and exacerbating the risks and impacts of disasters.

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