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FEATURE STORY October 12, 2020

An n prepare n pi plis toujou ! [Let us be more and more prepared]


Jimmy JEAN JULIEN, of the civil protection brigadiers working to make disaster preparedness announcements to the community.

Due to its location and developmental challenges, Haiti is highly vulnerable to natural hazards and climate shocks, mainly hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. More than 96% of the population is exposed to at least two of these natural hazards.This situation is exacerbated by high poverty levels, the vulnerability of the country’s infrastructure, unplanned urban expansion, and institutional fragility.

The human and economic impacts of disasters in Haiti have been extremely severe, and climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of hydro-meteorological hazards. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew affected over two million people, resulted in over 500 deaths, displaced 175,000 Haitians, and caused losses and damages estimated at 32% of the 2015 GDP.

In order to reduce the number of fatalities, as well as economic losses caused by disasters, the World Bank is supporting the Haitian Government to strengthen disaster and climate resilience through projects aiming to reinforce risk understanding, emergency preparedness and response, risk reduction investments, and financial protection against disasters. This includes support such as increasing resources to assess disaster risks, developing hazard and risk assessments, Disaster Risk Management Action Plans in key sectors, and capacity building for the Municipal Civil Protection Committees.

Strengthening systems for emergency preparedness and response

 Municipal Civil Protection Committees, comprised by volunteers from the community, are at the core of Haiti’s National Risk and Disaster Management System. These committees, coordinated by municipalities, are permanent fixtures, and they can persist despite the fragility of institutions. They bridge the gap between institutions and the community and are central to local emergency preparedness and response. Supported by the World Bank, the Civil Protection has received specialized training for disaster preparedness and response at all administrative levels for communication on Early Warning and evacuation, community mobilization, and emergency shelter management.

Work to better alert the public about disasters has been based on lessons learned from previous disasters in Haiti. Because people did not always understand early warning messages about threat levels and color codes, the Civil Protection General Directorate worked to develop a warning system that is much more easily understood by the general population. They also partnered closely with the Haiti Hydro Meteorology Unit to set up alert bulletins better suited to the local language and reinforces the actions to be taken and the behavior to be adopted at each stage.

In addition to institutional measures, like setting up disaster risk financing and emergency response plans, one key aspect of disaster risk management is emergency preparedness. This means increasing both the knowledge of disaster risks and the awareness of the local population to save lives. With the support of the Strengthening Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience Project and GFDRR technical assistance - particularly through the European Union funded Caribbean Regional Resilience Building Facility - the Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (DGPC) launched a public communication campaign during the current hurricane season.

Watch the video below!



Staying informed and aware of adverse events through music

To reach people living all over Haiti, DGPC disaster awareness campaign is broadcasting on a wide variety of platforms commonly used by local communities. A music video featuring iconic local musicians Lòlò and Manzè, and Tafa, a talented young singer, shared on national television and social media, has caught public attention with the rhythm, voices and dances reminding everyone to take precautions.

A series of educational radio podcasts are explaining the key actions to take before, during, and after a hurricane. Keeping in mind the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio spots emphasized some precautions to take during evacuation, such as including face masks in your emergency kit.

The campaign also partnered with the mobile technology company Viamo to distribute SMS and robocalls with short precautionary messages about early preparedness. Graphics posted on social media, government websites, and offline on brochures and billboards complete the efforts.

While the campaign does not aim to provide messages for individual events, it has built awareness among the public to be more receptive to early warning instructions provided by the authorities. It was launched just a few days before the tragic passage of hurricane Laura in Haiti, and so it was not yet possible to assess the impact on public awareness at that time. Since then, at least 3.5 million Haitians have already been reached by the messages through song, radio, Facebook, and more.

“The activity is making a big difference. It’s really giving us a boost in terms of communication to the public. What's important is to find ways to engage the public,” said Jerry Chandler, Director of the Civil Protection General Directorate.

These efforts are a step in the right direction toward strengthening resilience in Haiti against future adverse events. However, with the increasing frequency and severity of these events, a cooperative effort from the population and strengthened national and local systems for emergency preparedness and response will be required, as well as an improved framework for risk reduction and financial protection.

Music video and other campaign assets used with permission by the Haiti Directorate of Civil Protection. These materials were developed in collaboration with Pacifico, a firm specialized in risk communications.