PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Not all stories associated with natural disasters in Haiti are filled with tales of gloom and doom. Barely two years following the catastrophic earthquake that leveled portions of Port-au-Prince, the Civil Protection Agency (DPC) in charge of preparing Haiti for natural disasters, has become a success story that is now being examined as a role model for other disaster prone nations.
Since January 2010, the DPC has consolidated its place as a premier disaster preparedness relief agency; now among the best in the broader Caribbean. The Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul stated, "We must be prepared for future shocks. The DPC has become a model of how to organize communities so that they are better prepared for disaster management. There is growing evidence that building community resilience to disasters is more cost effective than humanitarian response. Evidence shows that for every $1 spent on prevention, $4 less needs to be spent on the response."
Already before the earthquake and in coordination with a wide variety of international agencies, the DPC was conducting simulation exercises, testing contingency plans, and training its personnel. The tragedy of 2010 and the cholera epidemic of the last two years have allowed the DPC to hone its skills.
Directed by Madame Jean Baptiste, who has been at the helm since 2005, the DPC has been busy reducing the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and hurricanes through a very strong ethic of prevention.
According to Fenella Frost, head of UNDP's Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, "Thanks to this successful initiative, we have been able to reduce vulnerability of people and property, better manage land and the environment, and significantly improve preparedness for adverse events."
Mayard-Paul, who is responsible for the development and oversight of the DPC, said, "Haiti's DPC is a real success story. We have developed a skilled outfit, organized across the country and present in every region that is systematically preparing Haitians for the next extreme event. We can't prevent disasters, but thanks to DPC we can certainly be better prepared."
Baptiste, who is now widely recognized for her able leadership of the DPC, said that her unit has been working closely with international agencies such as UNDP, World Bank, EU, US Southern Command, USAID, and CIDA, who have provided funding and training.