Let’s start with your role. When did you get involved with the Department of Civil Protection?
I started working as civil servant at the Ministry of Environment back in the nineties. At that time, I acted as focal point for the Disaster Management Committee. Afterwards, I became a technical officer for the Department of Civil Protection and covered the coordination of ten Civil Protection departments. I am now responsible for cooperation and partnerships. It has been an intense but very rewarding journey.
Based on your experience, what natural hazards are more frequent in Haiti and what is the impact?
Haiti is exposed to a wide spectrum of natural hazards such as tropical storms, hurricanes, floods, deforestation, soil erosion, landslides, earthquakes and droughts. Every year, large segments of the population suffers the physical, social, economic, and environmental effects. The human and economic impacts of disasters in Haiti have been extremely severe. The major catastrophes over the last decades have been:
In 1994, Hurricane Gordon killed over 1,000 people and caused severe mudslides from the heavy rainfall causing vast deforestation and serious flooding.
In 2004, Tropical Storm Jeanne caused extensive flooding and landslides, killed over 2,500 Haitians and left 200,000 homeless.
In 2008, four hurricanes—Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike—occurred within 30 days of each other, killing over 800 people and causing more than US$ 1 billion in damages.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid. Monetary damage was estimated to be US$ 2.8 billion and 546 dead were reported.
We are learning from these disasters for effective response and to build back better.
What will the 2021 hurricane season look like?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Centre, there is a 60 percent likelihood that the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will experience above-average activities.
Due to the ongoing La Niña global weather pattern and high Atlantic sea temperatures in the whole area, it is expected that violent rains, landslides, and floods could further affect the country during the next six months. Considering last year’s intense hurricane season and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the DGPC and humanitarian actors must work hard to prepare.
Considering Haiti’s geographical location and its exposure to a wide spectrum of natural hazards, what are two major logistical challenges to consider in planning a response?
The major challenge is to ensure a timely and effective distribution of essential relief supplies. Taking into consideration the complicated security situation, the impact of COVID-19 and the poor road conditions, especially after a rapid onset-emergency, it is particularly challenging to control the timeliness of relief item transportation and distribution. Particularly during the critical 3-day period following a disaster when overcoming logistics challenges and operational problems are critical to save lives. The second major challenge involves providing resource management for emergency logistics at national and departmental level: we need the right staff, with the right training at the right moment.
How does the Department of Civil Protection prepare for the hurricane season?
To reduce the number of fatalities and make sure the country is ready to respond, the Department of Civil Protection carries out regular multi-sectorial workshops to improve coordination and technical capacities for the emergency response. Coordination is key also in terms of collecting and sharing relevant and timely information on available shelters and for the set-up of stock inventories.
The ten national and departmental contingency plans are constantly updated and complemented with simulation exercises. These exercises test real-time response capacities and identify corrective measures to be included in current protocols, operational guides and other coordination systems. In particular, the Evacuation and Shelter Management Guide has been revised to integrate the COVID-19 response activities and include preparedness trainings and awareness raising briefings.
The Department of Civil Protection has developed a public awareness campaign to reach people living all over Haiti and increase awareness among the public on how to be more receptive to early warning instructions provided by the authorities.
What do you think is the added value of the national Logistics Preparedness Working Group?
The Logistic Preparedness Working Group supports the Department of Civil Protection and the National Disaster Management System in sharing, collecting, updating data and standardizing logistics response plans. The working group unites stakeholders before an emergency to ensure that stocks are adequately managed and correctly located so to respond effectively. It also provides an opportunity to share lessons learned and ensure that best practices are captured and included into future logistics response plans. Since 2012, the National Logistics Sector in Haiti, co-led by the DGPC and the World Food Programme, is aligned with this perspective by supporting the government and local communities to build their capacities and reinforce supply chain resilience when facing future catastrophes. Together we are better prepared to effectively respond in a highly coordinated way.
To learn more about logistics preparedness efforts in Haiti, visit the dedicated page here.