Haiti: UN forces on standby for emergency relief as tropical storm nears

Aug 4, 2011

Damages following the earthquake which devastated Haiti in January 2010

Nearly 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are on emergency standby in Haiti as tropical storm Emily barrels towards the impoverished Caribbean country, which is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.

Some contingents of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which comprises 8,500 troops and 3,000 police, have already been deployed as a precautionary measure in regions that are most at risk from the storm, which is expected to hit the country overnight.

These forces are in position on the ground in Gonaïves and Les Cayes and on standby in Port-au-Prince should rescue operations be needed, and MINUSTAH has set up two crisis centres to coordinate action.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is coordinating all action that might be required from UN humanitarian agencies and their international and national partners. Food stocks, medical kits, cholera treatment kits, tents and tarpaulins have already been pre-positioned throughout the country in preparation for the hurricane season.

In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Haiti developed   11 contingency plans in preparation for the cyclone season that have been revised and tested during national simulation exercises on 20 and 21 July. This drill tested emergency response coordination and knowledge-sharing capacities between the different Government units and the international community.

In addition, when Hurricane Tomas struck Haiti in November 2010, the Department of Civil Protection set up national Emergency Operation Centres in Port-au-Prince and 10 other sites across the country, which UNDP helped to run. These centres kept Haitians informed about emerging risks all over the country, and coordinated immediate damage assessments and aid when necessary.

In partnership with UNDP and in preparation for the cyclonic season, the government developed eleven contingency plans that have been revised and tested at a joint national simulation exercise (SIMEX) held on 20 and 21 July throughout Haiti. This exercise tested the coordination and knowledge sharing capacities between the different decision making bodies and the international community in terms of emergency response in the country.

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