Red Cross Prepares Camps as Tomas Heads for Haiti

November 4, 2010

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ –The American Red Cross is making final preparations in Haiti for the arrival of Tropical Storm Tomas, which is expected to inflict heavy winds and rain on the island’s already vulnerable population – including hundreds of thousands of people living under tarps and tents since the earthquake of January 12th.

As of Thursday, November 4, a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch had been issued for Haiti. On the current forecast track, Tomas is expected to approach Haiti on Friday.

The Red Cross is pursuing two types of activities before the arrival of Tomas. The first is disaster preparedness and risk reduction, which means direct work with the vulnerable camp populations. The second involves pre-positioning resources and emergency personnel for a rapid response after the storm.

Knowing that hurricane season was approaching, the American Red Cross has reached tens of thousands of people in 22 camps in recent months with activities such as digging drainage ditches, sandbagging hillsides and clearing evacuation routes. In addition, Red Cross volunteers have provided emergency first aid training, installed early warning systems (flagpoles and bullhorns) and conducted workshops to teach children about what to do when a storm threatens.

We have trained more than 50 vigilance committees in various camps. As of today, they are alerting the camp populations that red flags have been raised, meaning severe weather is imminent.

The broader Red Cross network, meanwhile, has sent millions of SMS messages in Creole, providing people with simple and accessible information on the steps they can take to minimize their risk. The vast majority of families in the camps have access to cell phones, so text messages are an effective way to reach them.

In preparation for a rapid response after the storm, the Red Cross network (including the American Red Cross and international partners) has pre-positioned emergency stocks for 17,000 families at 10 locations around the country so they can quickly be delivered to areas affected by the storm. These include emergency shelter kits, jerry cans, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets.

Red Cross emergency response teams are on standby in Jacmel, Leogane and Port-au-Prince, prepared to provide immediate assistance after the storm. American Red Cross personnel trained in health, shelter, water/sanitation, logistics and disaster response make up several of these teams, which will both assess needs immediately after the storm and help coordinate the Red Cross response.

The response to Tomas is complicated by the fact that it is one of three emergencies that the Red Cross is simultaneously responding to in Haiti. There has also a recent cholera outbreak, and we are involved in ongoing recovery work following the devastating January earthquake.

Although the cholera outbreak has largely been contained to regions north of Port-au-Prince, Tropical Storm Tomas could set back our efforts to contain the outbreak in the camps, as heavy rains cause pooling water that can increase spread of the disease.

Our cholera response has included provision of emergency personnel, supplies, chlorine to purify water and other support in the affected regions. Responding to requests from the Haitian Ministry of Health, the American Red Cross and its partners have flown urgently needed supplies into Haiti within the past week to bolster the cholera response. These include 25,000 units of Lactated Ringer’s, a treatment for dehydration that is given orally or intravenously, as well as 669 megaphones to assist in communicating with vulnerable communities. The megaphones were purchased by the American Red Cross, and the organization paid for shipping of the Lactated Ringer’s, which was supplied in collaboration with Partners in Health and J/P HRO.

Also in response to a Ministry of Health request, last week the American Red Cross flew in 5,000 cots – sourced from a Red Cross warehouse in Atlanta – to increase bed capacity at hospitals and clinics treating and preparing to treat cholera patients.

The global Red Cross network has established a cholera treatment centre in Arcahie, northwest of Port-au-Prince, and plans two additional cholera treatment centers in other parts of the country.

Despite the multiple challenges currently facing Haiti, the American Red Cross anticipates having the funds necessary to respond to these latest emergencies, thanks to the generosity of the American people. We encourage those interested in recovery efforts in Haiti to visit www.redcross.org/haiti for updates on the Red Cross response. Anyone wishing to support the American Red Cross in its work – the organization responds to 70,000 disasters each year – should visit www.redcross.org for more information.

SOURCE American Red Cross

Source: newswire

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