The L'Islet community is in the south of the city of Les Cayes.
The sanitary facilities were seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Haiti, Hurricane Sandy and the barely-noticed catastrophe

Hurricane Sandy was one of the worst natural catastrophes in 2012. Numerous media reports confirm that the damage was immense, especially in the USA. The loss to the economy as a whole is estimated to have been over US$ 50bn. More than 210 people lost their lives. While the devastation that Sandy caused on the east coast of the USA was omnipresent in the media, it was almost overlooked that other countries in the Caribbean region have also been struggling hard with the effects of the hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy's path of destruction crossed the south-west of Haiti between 23 and 26 October 2012, and although it did not hit the island with its full force, 75 of the country's 140 communities were threatened. Extreme rainfall, tidal waves and strong winds destroyed homes, roads and bridges. The impoverished nation's agricultural sector remains particularly hard hit to this day.
Another risk factor for Haiti was that Hurricane Isaac had already caused enormous damage to farms just a few months previously in August 2012. Around 40% of the annual harvest fell victim to the flooding caused by Isaac. The south of Haiti, which had been largely spared in August, then lost 90,000 hectares of farmland to Sandy. This tragic chain of events has led to 450,000 people – including many children – being acutely threatened by malnutrition.

Serious damage to infrastructure
In addition to the agricultural disaster, the severely damaged infrastructure is also a cause of great concern. A review of the situation at the end of 2012 showed that 50 schools were completely demolished and another 100 damaged, some of them seriously. This affects 20,000 school pupils. Sanitary facilities in the schools and communities no longer function properly, and they are a breeding ground for disease. 22 further cholera stations were destroyed, after 38 had already been rendered useless by Isaac. More than 8,000 cases of cholera were registered in Haiti by October.

The clean-up and rebuilding of Port-Au-Prince after the terrible earthquake in January 2010 still ties up many of the aid consignments and resources in the country. This means that the resources for combating the effects of Hurricane Sandy are very limited. The coincidence of these various risk factors makes many people in Haiti extremely vulnerable, and help is desperately needed. That is why organisations like SOS Children's Villages are urgently calling for support.

The Munich Re Foundation also wants to make a contribution: In L'Islet, Marie de les Cayes, a local authority in the south of Haiti, the sanitary facilities have been seriously affected by strong winds and rainfall. This community of 256 families is located in a region that is predominantly swampland. Even before the storm, there were only 15 public sanitary installations for the entire population. Most of these have now been heavily damaged by the storm, and this situation brings new dangers with it. Ten cases of cholera have already been reported.

Repairing the existing sanitary facilities and building five new ones is the goal of a project being managed by SOS Children's Villages in Haiti. The Foundation is financing this project in L'Islet, in order to improve the hygiene conditions in the community and ensure a supply of clean water. With the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy concentrating on America, it is all the more important to help those who are not on the radar of the western media.


CB, 28 January 2013