Reported by Fred Bever
BOSTON — As Haiti prepares for the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac, aid groups are helping to secure water supplies and medical assistance.
Boston’s Haitian community hopes friends and relatives in the vulnerable island nation don’t suffer a significant setback in their efforts to recover from the earthquake of 2010.
Cate Oswald is the director of programs for Partners In Health, a Boston-based aid organization that maintains a workforce of some 5,000 people in Haiti. Speaking from Port-au-Prince, Oswald said her biggest concern about Isaac is flooding that could set back recent successes fighting cholera. The waterborne disease has plagued the island since the quake.
Still, she says, there is a well-organized effort to help residents prepare, with Red Cross trucks touring the streets to broadcast speaker warnings, and radio stations getting out the word. Oswald says the preparation efforts have given residents some optimism — as has news that the storm is not likely to grow to hurricane force over Haiti.
But, she adds, there’s still anxiety.
“Most people are just seeing what will happen,” Oswald said. “Of course we’re all hoping for the best, but also knowing that we’re in a very fragile environment.”
There are similar sentiments in Boston’s Haitian community. Dr. Marielle Alexis, a dentist at the Mattapan Community Health Center, is hoping the storm will weaken.
“Any time we hear about a hurricane, the water is a problem — the water, the rivers,” Alexis said.
And, she says, she always worries about her country, which is the poorest in the hemisphere, and about her sister who still lives there.
“Especially since the earthquake,” Alexis added. “I can say it’s very tough. Tough, tough emotionally. Sad to hear that every year [there's] something in Haiti.”
There are 350,000 people or more still living in tent shelters in the country. Authorities are trying to evacuate some to emergency shelters, but many residents are reluctant to move, fearing they may lose their belongings.