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August 26, 2012

Haiti: People and Animals Recover from Tropical Storm Isaac

Humane Society International

  • Paw-deep in floodwaters. Logan Abassi

  • A street after the storm. Diane Belanger

  • We came across a very ill dog. HSI

  • Braving the heights in search of food. Diane Belanger

  • A dozen dogs ravished a garbage pile looking for something to eat. Gwynne Beatty

  • We will try to help this dog who was stabbed. HSI

  • Camp Sinai. Gwynne Beatty

  • We also saw pigs seeking food. Gwynne Beatty

  • A typical scene. Gwynne Beatty

by Amelia Muccio

On Sunday, August 26, 2012, two days after Tropical Storm Isaac made landfall in Haiti, HSI’s Haiti team assessed eight neighborhoods that included tent cities and informal settlements in Port-au-Prince. We saw Haitians doing their best to pick up the pieces and move forward. Haiti is a fragile nation, but its people are resilient.

Touring the area

At our first stop in Delmas, we found a dog with severe injuries that urgently required attention. One of our veterinarians examined her and took down information so we could return later with supplies for treatment. This was the first of many animals we would come across in need of medical intervention.

Food insecurity

In Cite Plus, there is a large garbage canal, and we saw many dogs wandering through the trash searching for their next meal. One dog was so hungry that he braved the steep banks to look for food. The HSI team examined the debris along the canal in an effort to form a picture of the primary aspects of a street dog’s diet. It seemed to us that they ate everything. Later, outside the Hotel Oloffson in downtown Port-au-Prince, we encountered a dozen more dogs ravishing a garbage pile in search of food.

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This scavenging, unfortunately, is not limited to animals. In Cite Soleil, residents eat clay patties which consist of dirt, salt and spices. Lack of enough food is a problem for both humans and animals in Haiti.

Dogs as protection

In Fonational, the HSI team talked to many residents who own animals, including a gentleman whose dog had been stabbed. Our veterinarian examined the animal and we will return tomorrow with supplies to treat the wound. The owner was grateful, as his dog provides him with security in a dangerous area.

Field clinics

In Carrefour Feuilles, we visited the neighborhood and the site of our next major field clinic, which will take place September 1, 2012. We will begin advertising the event in the community on Wednesday.

We are scheduling a series of field clinics to run weekly in various neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, where we will provide mass vaccinations, deworming and medical services for animals. In addition, we will do education and outreach on rabies, dog bite prevention, recognizing animal behavior and what to do if bitten by a dog.

By improving the health of animals and teaching residents about these issues, we can reduce the all-too-often violent interactions between them and improve the safety and welfare of humans.

Fragility of camp life

We also visited Bel Air and Champs de Mars, and we have not forgotten Camp Sinai, which is located a short distance from where we are staying. We spoke to a representative from the International Organization for Migration yesterday and today and helped the Sinai camp coordinator begin the process of obtaining an Access ID to officially register as a camp and thereby link to potential resources and services.

We will visit again tomorrow to further assess the damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaac that left people and animals without shelter.

The long road ahead

Haiti has been recovering since the 2010 earthquake. Progress has been slow and as non-governmental organizations face dwindling relief funds, more and more Haitians are falling through the cracks. Many camps like Sinai are no longer sponsored by outside NGOs. The people are struggling to survive each and every day and a storm like Isaac just exacerbates the instability of their living conditions.

There is still an enormous amount of work to be done in Haiti. HSI and many other NGOs are committed to staying the course and making tangible improvements to the environment and infrastructure that will benefit the country's people and animals.

Give to help us respond to this and other disasters.

We are grateful for the generous support of our partner, Best Friends Animal Society, without which we could not accomplish this vital work.

Amelia Muccio is Director, Haiti Project & Disaster Operations for HSI. She is an emergency management/public health professional with more than 15 years’ combined experience in strategizing and leading all-hazards preparedness planning, response and recovery initiatives. As an emergency response volunteer and executive director of an international nonprofit, Ms. Muccio has managed short-term and long-term recovery needs of populations displaced by catastrophic disasters including the Indian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Florida hurricanes. Amelia is a certified ICS (Incident Command System) and HSEEP (Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program) instructor and a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP) and Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP).

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