With Hurricane Irene poised to strike Haiti, International Medical Corps has staff on standby to provide emergency relief and is preparing its cholera treatment sites around the country for an increase in cholera cases following the storm.
“If Irene stays on its current path, we can expect to see heavy winds and rainfall in Haiti’s northern Departments, including the Artibonite Department, where cholera first broke out last fall,” said Sean Casey, International Medical Corps Haiti Country Director. “We are very concerned that this storm will cause severe flooding, which could accelerate the spread of cholera.”
In Artibonite, International Medical Corps relocated all cholera patients from its tent-based cholera treatment center in St. Michel to the adjacent hospital building, so that they are in a safe, permanent structure and are able to continue to receive 24-hour care. Currently, a hurricane watch is in effect for the north coast of Haiti, while a tropical storm warning has been issued for the whole country.
Haiti’s topography is prone to both flooding and landslides. Irene, now a Category One hurricane, has sustained winds of 130 km/hr, while as much as 20 inches of rainfall are possible in some locations in Haiti. It is the first hurricane of the season, and comes just a few weeks after Tropical Storm Emily grazed Haiti’s southern coast.
International Medical Corps was on the ground 22 hours after last year’s 7.0-earthquake struck Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas, and was one of the first responders to address medical and emergency needs following Hurricane Tomas, which caused severe flooding in earthquake-affected areas and exacerbated the country’s cholera outbreak. International Medical Corps continues to respond to the cholera outbreak with a network of cholera treatment centers, mobile medical units, and oral rehydration points in some of Haiti’s hardest to reach and most vulnerable areas.