There was rain in Port-au-Prince yesterday morning. “Not just a little rain—a proper one,” said PIH clinical director Dr. Louise Ivers. “The [rainy] season has started.”
With hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors now living in temporary settlements for displaced people left without shelter following the January 12 earthquake, bad weather could mean catastrophe. People living in these settlements only have tattered pieces of cloth and cardboard and scraps of wood to shelter their families from the elements.
“There is more and more misery,” said Dr. Ivers.
Until now, the weather has mercifully remained clear. Today’s rain suggests a dangerously early rainy season for Haiti, which usually doesn’t begin until around April.
Although PIH and partner organizations are working to help bring tents and other temporary housing structures to those most in need, the sheer numbers of those in need—and the complications involved in procuring, shipping, and distributing housing supplies and material—requires the international community to work with Haiti’s government to bring housing solutions. In addition, long term housing and resettlement plans are also needed. The early start of the rainy season brings a new urgency for these efforts.
In addition to shelter issues, rainy weather brings a host other of potential problems for Haiti. In the crowded temporary settlement camps, pools of stagnant water could spell a potential malaria outbreak. With little sanitation at these settlements, rains could contaminate drinking water supplies, leading to waterborne diseases such as typhoid and dysentery.
Bad weather is also a concern for the structural integrity of buildings already damaged by the earthquake. Collapsed buildings and landslides caused by rains could also render roads impassable, complicating relief and recovery efforts in general.
With the hurricane season just a few months away, PIH is urging the international community to help form and carry out a large-scale action plan immediately. To not do so would be unconscionable.