Haiti: Another disaster looms

First the earthquake, then a cholera outbreak and now, a hurricane bears down on the beleaguered people of Haiti as the international community frantically tries to ready supplies bracing for the storm called Hurricane Tomas, which threatens to turn an already serious situation into a calamity.

2010 has been the year of reckoning for Haiti, already one of the poorest countries in the world. At 16.53 local time on Tuesday January 12, a massive earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale devastated large swathes of this Caribbean island country, destroying parts of the capital city, Port-au-Prince and reducing other towns and cities to piles of rubble.

An estimated 230,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1.3 million were left homeless in the Earthquake, many of these living in tent cities (around one million) around the capital city. It was from these areas and in the current sanitary conditions that the cholera outbreak started in October, killing some 330 people.

The conditions in these camps created a perfect vehicle for the cholera to spread, leading healthcare experts to declare that cholera will soon join malaria and tuberculosis in becoming an endemic disease in Haiti.

Now, the UN warns that Hurricane Tomas is heading straight for this country, forecasting landslides, flooding and further destruction of infra-structures if the storm hits in full force. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has itemised priority needs for the forthcoming weeks and is trying to build up supplies in strategic points.

The team has already travelled to Haiti to identify locations to act as centers for contingency plans, storing equipment and goods, mobilizing resources and stocks and identifying needs as the storm approaches. This, on top of the need to manage the response to the urgent requirements created by the earthquake and cholera epidemic.

At 17.00 EDT, Tomas was situated around 500 miles SSW of Port-au-Prince, moving NNW at 6 mph and with winds of 40 mph. A tropical storm watch and a hurricane watch are in force in Haiti this Wednesday night as the population braces itself for yet another scourge this year - landslides and flooding adding to the already calamitous situation.

Timofei Belov



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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey