International Rescue Committee (IRC)

After Sandy: A story of resilience

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NEW YORK – Just days before it wreaked havoc on communities up and down the eastern United States, the monster storm called Sandy was battering the Caribbean with hurricane force. 

On Monday night, as our sturdy walls shuddered with the howling wind, my IRC colleagues here wondered how hundreds of thousands of homeless earthquake survivors in Haiti could possibly have weathered this same fearsome storm in tents.

IRC country director Miriam Castaneda says that for those who weren’t evacuated by Haitian authorities there was simply nowhere else to go. On Friday she deployed teams to camps where quake survivors live in and around the capital Port-au-Prince to assess the damage and start providing assistance. 
 
So far the IRC has delivered tarps, flashlights, water containers and other emergency supplies to 4,200 people in urgent need. “The camps and tents where they live are now completely flooded,” Miriam says. “Latrines that are poorly maintained have overflowed and garbage is everywhere.” 

Cholera fears

A huge concern in the wake of the hurricane is cholera — the water-borne disease can kill within hours. The IRC is stepping up our health education efforts, promoting good hygiene practices that can help prevent its spread. We are also repairing latrines and other sanitation facilities that were damaged in the storm and leading a clean up effort.
 
We’re working closely with other emergency responders to keep a close eye on camps where cholera has been a problem in the past, and we are ready to assist in the event of an outbreak. So far 50 suspected cases of cholera have been referred for medical care.

Trauma — and resilience

Hurricane Sandy ravaged the countryside as well as the city, resulting in the massive destruction of crops. We’re concerned that food prices will rise dramatically, making it even more difficult for Haitians who are already struggling to feed their families. “Food security will definitely be an issue,” Miriam says. “We are monitoring the situation.” 
 
Miriam says she is impressed by the dedication of the IRC staff in Haiti, most of whom come from local communities. Even though it meant being away from their families, she told me, they came out in the middle of the storm to help with the emergency response.
 
After the devastating 2010 earthquake and this latest in a series of violent tropical storms, Haitians are weary – and wary – of natural disasters. “There is still a lot of trauma,” Miriam says, “but people here are extremely resilient.”
 

Photos from the IRC's Haiti team

These images were taken by IRC colleagues who were assessing damage and distributing emergency relief in camps around Port-au-Prince immediately after Hurricane Sandy.  The IRC also provided emergency support in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac in August.  Learn more about our work in Haiti at Rescue.org/haiti.
 
A pregnant young woman outside her tent in Haiti

This young woman,18, is pregnant and living on her own. Her tent became flooded during heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy.

Photo: Jean Emmanuel/IRC

swollen river in Haiti

La Riviere Grise (Grey River), swollen after the hurricane. Thousands of people pitch their tents along its banks for lack of better space to live, even though floods are a frequent occurrence during the rainy season.

Photo: Jean Emmanuel/IRC

baby on a bed in his family's tent shelter in Haiti

A child lies on a cot in a camp for quake survivors in Croix de Bouquets, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

Photo: Jean Emmanuel/IRC

flooded camp in Haiti

Two days after Sandy moved on, these tents at Camp Tete Ensemble were still flooded.

Photo: Joe Raymond/IRC 

IRC staff distributing emergency tarps in Haiti

Marc-Antoine Delisca (right) and other members of the IRC staff in Haiti unload tarps to distribute to people whose tents were damaged by Sandy's high winds.

Photo: Joe Raymond/IRC 

 

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