Tackling COVID-19 and the hurricane season in Haiti

Interview with Gerald Joseph, Administrative Coordinator of Haitian Civil Protection (Direction Générale de la Protection Civile)
05 October 2020
Civil Protection’s agents are clearing the roads, streets and public spaces after tropical storm Laura on 23 August – Haiti, 24/08/2020 by local Civil Protection (DGPC)

As the world is facing an unprecedented ongoing health crisis, Haiti has been dealing with two challenges: COVID-19 and the hurricane season. During August, three major depressions - tropical storms Gonzalo, Isaias and Laura - threatened Haitian coastlines. Tropical Storm Laura reached Haiti on 23 August and caused significant damage, especially to agricultural and road infrastructures. Unfortunately, forecasts indicate that the season of 2020 will be more intense than previous years.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Haitian government gradually reopened the country at the end of June. However, the Americas and the Caribbean are still considered as epicenters, and the epidemiological risk of further cases remains. In the meantime, Haiti is also struggling with multiple socio-economic challenges.

In this intensified context, preparedness activities are critical as they can save lives, time and money. Recent studies show that supply chain activities account for an average of 73% of humanitarian response costs. Since 2012, the Logistics Sector in Haiti, co-led by the Direction Générale de la Protection Civile (DGPC) and the World Food Programme (WFP), has supported the strengthening of the national disaster management? system as well as supply chain preparedness to respond to natural disasters.

To gain more insights on the current situation and the challenges faced by the Logistics Sector in preparation of the hurricane season, we interviewed Gerald Joseph, co-coordinator of the sector and administrative coordinator of DGPC:


What is the role of the Logistics Sector in preparation of the hurricane season?

 

“Planning, coordination and pre-positioning are essential for risk and disaster management and, in that sense, the Logistics Sector has an important role. Firstly, logistics services are required in all types of activities. Secondly, the Logistics Sector is key for coordination and information management activities."


As soon as meteorological alerts are confirmed, the race against time begins. Road infrastructures are not suited to climatic shocks in Haiti, so DGPC and the Logistics Sector need to ensure that stocks are adequately managed and correctly located to be able to respond effectively in the zones with the highest risks. In response to the tropical storm Laura, the Logistics Sector played a significant role in collecting and sharing information on stocks and road conditions. In close collaboration with the Haitian government and other partners, the sector was able to update the map displaying access constraints daily.”


In your opinion, what is the impact of COVID-19 on preparedness activities?
 

"COVID-19 and the hurricane season coexist, we need to learn how to live with them and provide the necessary resources to the response.”


“Some essential preparedness activities were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. For example, none of the planned simulation exercises took place because of social distancing measurements. DGPC is exploring alternatives such as tabletop exercises with limited attendance. Additionally, during our preparation to the tropical storm Isaias, we sensed that the motivation and energy levels were lower, probably due to there being less face-to-face meetings and the shift to   virtual conversations with unstable and limited internet connection – even in the capital.


How do you see the future of the Logistics Sector’s preparedness activities in Haiti?
 

"Anticipation is the pillar of logistics services”


“The government of Haiti welcomes initiatives from the private sector, donors and the international community to support its risk and disaster management activities. The lack of resources impedes on our capacity to respond to the needs of the Haitian population. I think that promoting and strengthening a coordinated approach between the different humanitarian actors, under the leadership of the DGPC and WFP, will enable more efficient risk and disaster management as well as a better assistance towards the most vulnerable communities.”
 

Floods after Tropical Storm Laura caused significant damages to the road network – photo taken during a UNHAS Recce flight on 26 August - OIM / Jeanty Junior Augustin

Floods after Tropical Storm Laura caused significant damages to the road network – photo taken during a UNHAS Recce flight on 26 August - OIM / Jeanty Junior Augustin

 

The Preparedness Project of the Logistics Sector in Haiti is aligned with this perspective by supporting the government and local communities to build their capacities and reinforce supply chain resilience when facing future catastrophes.

To learn more about the Logistics Sector operation in Haiti, visit our dedicated page here