International Medical Corps is on standby to deploy disaster response experts to provide lifesaving assistance in hard-hit areas as Hurricane Irma—now the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in history—makes its way across the northern Caribbean. Teams have already been established to assess needs and provide lifesaving relief in Haiti and the Dominican Republic should it be needed, while teams are also being prepared for other locations, including the Bahamas.
“While we do not yet know the exact path of the storm or what its impact will be, we are mobilizing staff and supplies so we will be ready to deploy to the hardest-hit areas, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to provide lifesaving care as needed,” said Ian Rodgers, International Medical Corps’ Director of Emergency Response and Preparedness.
Hurricane Irma’s potential for heavy rains and flooding poses particular risk for Haiti, which struggles to contain a deadly cholera outbreak. There is a strong possibility that flooding and damage from winds could increase cholera cases. International Medical Corps is currently working in northern Haiti to run mobile medical units that respond to cholera cases.
The International Medical Corps team in Haiti is prepared to support a potential response in vulnerable areas, including in Grand Nord province. Additional disaster response experts are prepared to deploy to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and other areas as needed.
At least 11 people have been killed by the storm so far. Its trail of destruction has left more than 56,000 people in Puerto Rico without running water, while Barbuda suffered widespread damage. The storm is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 system through the next few days.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Warning for the northern coast of Haiti and a Tropical Storm Warning for the capital, Port-au-Prince. Even if Irma does not make direct landfall on the island, the outer bands of the storm could lash residents with hurricane force winds and torrential rains.
International Medical Corps deployed experts to respond in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti last year, including operating mobile medical units and setting up and managing cholera treatment facilities. The organization has worked in the country since 2010, when it responded to the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the country.
A pre-eminent first responder for more than three decades, International Medical Corps has extensive experience providing medical care and other lifesaving relief in the aftermath of disasters, including Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.