Three years ago, Sanan Antony moved into what would come to be called camp Trazelie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His home was among the thousands destroyed by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the jam-packed urban communities of the country’s capital city.
The American Red Cross has been working with Antony and other residents of Trazelie ever since to teach life-saving skills in the face of future disasters.
“Most people here would like to leave the site,” Antony said. “If not for the American Red Cross, we wouldn’t even have the skills to prepare and respond in case of a disaster.”
Since becoming a community liaison for the Red Cross to organize and carry out disaster preparedness activities, Antony and his 16-year-old son have become dedicated to helping their community prepare for disasters, especially major storms.
“We are still improving, and preparations for [Hurricane] Sandy were better than for [Tropical Storm] Isaac,” he said. “We were able to make sure the tarps were secured in the wind, and the vigilance committee made sure to raise the red warning flag, so people knew to get to safer areas.”
Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Isaac both struck Haiti in 2012, and many local residents expressed gratitude to the Red Cross for its help since the earthquake in reducing the impacts of disasters.
Before each storm made landfall, community groups trained to assist Red Cross Disaster Risk Reduction teams were spreading critical preparedness information, activating early warning systems and helping to evacuate high-risk areas. The groups went tent-to-tent in their assigned zones to ensure everybody was aware of the threats from the storms and to make note of anyone who might need further assistance, including the elderly, disabled and families with children.
Immediately following the storms, the Red Cross worked with pre-identified community volunteers to conduct damage assessments and disburse food, water and relief items like tarps, blankets, and hygiene kits as needed. Since the earthquake, the American Red Cross has spent more than $44 million on disaster preparedness and risk reduction activities in Haiti.
In several camps, the American Red Cross is working with residents to construct drainage canals to redirect rain and flood waters away from tents. Reinforcing any bordering embankments or hills also protects communities from flooding and landslide threats.
Disaster preparedness activities continue to play a prominent role to improve community safety. From building local infrastructure to improving access to vital resources in a way that keeps homes protected from natural threats, Haitian communities are playing a leading role in determining how American Red Cross programs will affect them for years to come.
“Generally, when you take time to do something, there’s a better chance for it to last,” said Magalie Cesar, a community leader from the Campeche neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. “The American Red Cross has a better idea of this community now because it’s taking its time to know us.”
To read the American Red Cross three-year Haiti progress report, go to www.redcross.org/haiti