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As Haiti's Hurricane Season Approaches, World Vision Concerned Storms Could Create 'Secondary Disaster'

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 General News J E 4
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-- Aid agency says disaster risk reduction must be part of Haiti's long-term strategy

-- Children are most vulnerable in disasters; can also be critical part of community preparedness

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- World Vision, the international Christian relief agency, is concerned that the upcoming hurricane season in Haiti could create a secondary disaster for Haitians and urges the Government of Haiti and the international community to include disaster risk reduction activities in its long-term rebuilding plans.

"While we continue to focus on the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of another disaster as the hurricane season approaches," said Jean-Claude Mukadi, World Vision's relief response manager in Haiti. "While we can't prevent disasters like earthquakes and floods, we must focus on preventing the effects of these disasters on those at risk in Haiti."

In 2008, Haiti was hit by four severe hurricanes, leaving the country struggling to recover. Haitians are exposed to growing and complex threats that result from natural disasters, high levels of poverty, severe environmental degradation, and increased vulnerability.

Multiple studies have shown that the economic cost of investing in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction is far less then the cost of dealing with the aftermath. In fact, some estimate that for every dollar spent on risk reduction, at least four dollars are saved.

With Haiti at such high risk of disasters, and with so many Haitians acutely vulnerable to the effects of these disasters, World Vision is calling on the Government of Haiti and the international community to treat disaster risk reduction as a critical component of the country's long-term recovery and reconstruction plans, with a minimum of 10 percent of total humanitarian funding made available for disaster risk reduction interventions. This figure is the minimum goal established by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and its partners, including World Vision.

"We know disaster risk reduction can save lives; we saw it work in Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr struck in 2007. Sadly, that cyclone killed 3,400 people, but an equally-powerful cyclone there in 1991 killed more than 143,000 Bangladeshis," said Melisa Bodenhamer, World Vision's senior advisor on disaster risk reduction. "Today in that country, communities are more prepared in the event that another catastrophic event like that should occur. It is our hope that by implementing similar disaster risk reduction activities, Haiti will see the same success in the years to come."

To help prepare many displaced families for this year's hurricane season, World Vision has implemented cash-for-work programs in its camps in Port-au-Prince, paying men and women to build and maintain latrines and bathing facilities, dig trenches in the camps to help ease the effects of heavy rains, and reinforce the temporary shelters with new tarps and poles.

In many countries where World Vision works, mitigating risks and reducing the impact of disasters on the communities has been an important focus for the relief agency. In Haiti's rural communities, World Vision has supported the creation of community committees to implement disaster risk reduction programming, including risk-mapping, community contingency planning, and raising awareness of the disasters themselves. In other areas, World Vision has built watershed walls and planted fruit trees on deforested slopes, providing both economic opportunities and reforestation initiatives to the local communities while also focusing on watershed preservation. World Vision hopes to work in coordination with the Government of Haiti and other international organizations to begin similar work in Port-au-Prince in the coming months.

In disasters like Haiti's hurricanes and recent earthquake, children are always the most vulnerable, both emotionally and physically. Haiti's children struggled to return to a sense of normalcy after January's earthquake, and they will struggle again if severe hurricanes hit the island this year. World Vision's disaster risk reduction work has been particularly successful when children are involved in the process. By equipping children to protect themselves, community resilience is greatly enhanced over the long-term and vulnerability to environmental threats is significantly reduced.

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.

SOURCE World Vision
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