Hurricane Irma continues to move towards Haiti as a Category 5 storm. Puerto Rico is already feeling the effects, with 15 -20 foot storm surges expected in some coastal communities. It is being described as the strongest Atlantic hurricane in history, with winds measured at 185 mph. Haiti landfall could happen Thursday morning.
Hurricane warnings have been issued by NOAA for the North departments of Haiti, and tropical storm level warnings for the Center, Artibonite and West departments. The Haitian government has activated its Emergency Operations Unit. The government has issued a Red Alert (highest level); schools across the country have been closed.
Many in Haiti are still recovering from Hurricaine Matthew in 2016, which killed hundreds and left thousands homeless. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s residents are especially vulnerable when a hurricane strikes. Human trafficking typically spikes after natural disasters, as desperate individuals migrate or send children away from home in search of work.
The United to End Child Slavery program, a partnership between Free the Slaves and Beyond Borders, is taking steps to protect our staff, alert communities in which we work, and assist in hurricane relief:
- Staffers have been mobilized to diffuse messages in communities, through front-line partner organizations, survivor networks and child protection brigades.
- Offices are being prepared for flooding or damage, to ensure operations can resume as quickly as possible after the storm.
- Staffers are preparing to be on standby to support rapid assessments if needed following the passage of the storm; official rapid assessment forms in French and Creole have been distributed to the team.
Our thoughts and prayers are with our staffers, the communities they serve, and people throughout Haiti as the storm approaches. We will keep you posted.