credit: CNN

Irma is Heading for Haiti. Is the Country Prepared?

The strongest Hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is poised to strike the country in the region least able to handle it.

Haiti is on the path of Hurricane Irma.  According to current projections, the storm could sweep past Haiti early Friday morning.

Though it seems parts of Haiti could be spared a direct hit, in the past storms with far less power have left parts of the country devastated.

Haiti has a troubled history with hurricanes.

In 2008, back-to-back-to-back-to-back storms pounded the country, causing massive flooding and devastation. Hillsides that had been stripped bare of trees due to deforrestation leads to mudslides and flooding and wiped out the country’s agriculture sector. Some 70% of Haiti’s crops were wiped out by these storms and over 1,000 people were killed or went missing. The economic toll for such a poor country was heavy, amounting to over $1 billion–which was about 5% of the country’s entire GDP.

Then, of course, was the 2010 earthquake which left hundreds of thousands of survivors displaced and forced to ride out subsequent storms in temporary shelters. A cholera outbreak at this time killed 10,000 people — and there is a connection between Cholera, which is transmitted by tainted water, and storms.

The last major Hurricane to strike Haiti was Hurricane Matthew last October. The storm dumped 40 inches of rain and killed over 500 people.  180,000 people were displaced. 

Haiti is still extremely vulnerable to natural disaster. Hillsides are still stripped bare of trees, raising the prospect of flooding and mudslides. And though exact figures of homelessness and displacement are not available, hundreds of thousands people live in dwellings that could not stand the force of this storm. Meanwhile, the United Nations is in the process of scaling back its presence in the country, with peacekeepers expected to fully withdraw by the middle of next month. On the one hand, this is a sign that, politically, things are far more stable in Haiti than they have been in decades.

But this country is still extremely vulnerable to exogenous shocks like the massive Hurricane Irma. Let’s hope she spares Haiti.