Safety Concerns Rise After Haiti’s Hurricanes

We received this update today from Anne Toussaint Protection Advisor & Program Development Manager, CRS Haiti

Hanna wasn’t something that we saw coming. It was supposed to be a small storm that was just going to pass by the southern tip of Haiti. But it changed direction and lingered for several days. Many of my colleagues were caught in the field, caught in the flooding of Gonaives.

CRS staff in Haiti ready bags of peas as part of food supplies they’ll distribute to Haitians displaced by recent storms. Photo by Alix Innocent/CRS

In Haiti the streets are not closed like they are in the States. There are big potholes, open sewers. When the streets are completely flooded, and you’re tying to wade through the water, you can fall into these holes, or be taken away by the current.

I was fortunate that I got to wait out the storm from the safety of Port-au-Prince. It felt like a stormy day in the U.S. I had no idea how bad it was in the rest of the country until I started getting reports from the field. The things my colleagues saw were very graphic, people getting caught in the currents in Gonaives.

My first though was for the safety of women and children. Shelters are overcrowded. People are housed in churches and schools, neither of which is really equipped to house the number of people in need. With this level of overcrowding women and children become more vulnerable to violent attacks and sexual abuse. There are questions that we have to ask ourselves; are the men and women separated in the shelter? Are the shelters well lit and do they have separate bathroom facilities?

A colleague of mine was in a shelter—in a room with 400 people cramped together: women, men and children, with no access to hygiene. They have a little bit of food with nothing to do. It’s misery.

These questions arise after things die down a bit. It’s hard to do psychosocial work until the shelters are stable, and people have their basic needs met.

Sara A. Fajardo, Catholic Relief Services communications officer-Latin America/Caribbean, wrote this post from an interview with Anne Toussaint.

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2 Responses to “Safety Concerns Rise After Haiti’s Hurricanes”

  1. Brian Says:

    With regards to the recent collapse of two schools in PETIONVILLE, Haiti. Can people be assured that CRS funded schools such as the Timkatec children’s center are structurally sound? Thank You

  2. John Lindner Says:

    Brian, good question. Here’s an answer from Greg Elder, CRS program coordinator in Haiti:

    The criteria for a school to be admitted into the CRS school feeding program does not necessarily require a study be done on the soundness of the infrastructure; however, if the school is visibly in disrepair this would create a problem for admission. There is always a balance between CRS’ mission of helping the poorest schools and children’s centers and requirements for admission into the Education or Safety Net program. Most poor schools and centers do not have the best quality infrastructures. CRS does, however, invest in the infrastructure of schools and child centers through its current USAID-funded Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP). CRS also creates and reinforces PTAs at the schools who in turn address these kinds of problems.

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