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close this bookDisaster Reports Number 5: Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica, September, 1988 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / OrganizaciĆ³n Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1988, 42 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPrologue
View the documentBackground
View the documentThe hurricane and its effects
View the documentThe surveillance system
View the documentRelief shelters
View the documentPreparedness and response
View the documentLessons learned
View the documentAppendix 1
View the documentAppendix 2
View the documentReferences

Relief shelters

A bout 44 percent of the housing stock in the island suffered some form of damage. Nearly 40 percent of the damage was sustained by the three populous southern parishes of Kingston/St. Andrew, St. Catherine and Clarendon. But Kingston/St. Andrew had, in fact, the lowest but one percentage damage to its stock [Ministry of Social Security]. It has been estimated that over 800,000 persons sought shelter, (Fig. 11) some as a precautionary measure before the storm [Reese, 1989].


Figure 11. Number of persons in shelter September 14,1988.

In the K.M.A. alone there were about 104 shelters [PAHO, Sept. 19, 1988] and 1,135 island-wide (Table 8) [PAHO/WHO, 1989].

Table 8. Number of shelters In Parishes.

PARISH

13 SEPTEMBER 1988

14 SEPTEMBER 1988


NO. OF

NO. OF


SHELTERS

SHELTERS

Kingston/St. Andrew

120

250

St. Catherine

50

100

St. Thomas

30

50

St. Mary

25

60

Trelawny

45

100

Clarendon

55

100

St. James

30

75

Hanover

35

60

Manchester

20

50

Westmoreland

40

100

St. Elizabeth

50

80

St. Ann

20

50

Portland

35

60

TOTAL

555

1,135

Source: PAHO/WHO, /989.

However, many whose homes had not been affected or who were able to find accommodation with relatives, left immediately after. Within three weeks of the hurricane, most shelters had been closed. In Port Maria, for example, of the 4,250 persons in shelters on September 13, 575 remained on September 25 [PAHO/WHO, 1989].

This action, it was felt, averted a potentially grave situation [Patterson, 1989] for the schools and churches which served as shelters were not, for the most part, designated as such and had neither the services nor the managerial staff to cope with the large numbers seeking shelter. Even where shelters were designated, shelter managers did not report for duty because of personal losses [Reese, 1989] or impassable roads. The high level of vandalism to shelters and the unsanitary conditions which prevailed at so many can be directly attributed to the absence of trained managers at the shelters [Collymore, 1989]. TWO days after the storm PAHO engineers- and the staff of the Environmental Control Division of the Ministry of Health made a rapid survey of shelters. They found sanitary conditions at the shelters critical as a result of the lack of water. Open defecation was common. They recommended that Public Health Inspectors be assigned to organize shelters for the digging of pits for the disposal of both excrete and solid waste. An assessment of environmental health problems in 23 shelters in urban and rural areas is given in Table 9. Nearly 61 percent of shelters in the metropolitan area visited during the first week had serious environmental health conditions. Rural shelters were worse with respect to water quality, refuse collection and disposal [PAHO/WHO,1989].

Table 9. Environmental conditions in shelters.


URBAN SHELTERS

RURAL SHELTERS


VISITED SEPT.13-17

VISITED SEPT. 21-24

Adequate amount of water

59%

53%

Adequate quality of water

49%

30%

Excreta disposal through water closets

82%

93%

Adequacy of disposal

71 %

66%

Adequacy of refuse disposal

58%

40%

Collection of refuse

42%

46%

The condition of those families which remained in relief centers was the subject of numerous reports in the news media. A tent settlement at Poor Man's Corner in St. Thomas and a number of families in the National Arena in the K.M.A. remained until April 1989. They were made homeless by the storm.

The earliest occupants of the National Arena arrived on the evening of Sunday, September 11 from the nearby communities of Mountain View Avenue and Vineyard Town. In the days that followed, the homeless in those shelters, both within the K.M.A. and nearby parishes, (Fig. 12) that were either damaged by the hurricane or needed for their normal activities, were sent to the Arena. On September 19, a PAHO/ECD report put the number of victims in the Arena at 160. On January 21 there were 32 families being housed at the National Arena comprising 131 individuals [Department of Geography, 1989].


Figure 12. Origin of hurricane victims at National Arena, February 1989.

There were twenty-one reported cases of illness in the two-week period ending January 21, 1989, eighteen of which were in the under-fifteen population [Department of Geography, 1989]. This amounted to an incidence rate among children of 300 per thousand. This compares with a rate of 108 per thousand for the same period in Enumeration District (ED) 73 of the nearby low-income community of Swallowfield. Colds, asthma and gastroenteritis were the most common complaints. The average family size in ED 73 was almost identical to that in the Arena at 4.1. The survey here was restricted to those households that had suffered loss from the hurricane. A similar survey of ED 73 in February 1987 [Department of Geography, 1987] revealed an incidence rate among the under-fifteen population of 162 per thousand. Thus, the incidence of disease in low-income Swallowfield was lower than one year earlier and less than one-third of the rate reported for the National Arena.