Responding to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti
Hurricane Matthew, the strongest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, made landfall in Haiti on October 4, 2016.
October 4, 2016
This morning, Hurricane Matthew, the strongest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, made landfall in Haiti. According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 4 storm hit near Les Anglais around 7 a.m. Eastern. With sustained winds of up to 145 mph, it could dump up to 20 inches of rain on the lower elevations, and up to 40 inches in the mountains.
NPH Programs Update
From Dr. Gautier, National Director for St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and St. Kay Germaine in Tabarre:
As of 10 a.m, Haiti time, the storm is still strong in the south and heading to Port-au-Prince. There is already significant damage in the southern areas of the country. Roofs are blown off, there is flooding and apparently even the Cathedral in Les Cayes, the third largest city, is damaged. We are still waiting for an official assessment about human impact, but there are a few deaths so far. We expect a surge in health problems, including respiratory issues, diarrhea and cholera. Our staff is working 24-hour shifts. The ambulatory clinic is closed, but maternity and emergency care are receiving people. Our yard is not flooded, and neither are the nearby streets. However, a river near the hospital is flooded.
From Gena Heraty, NPH Haiti Director of Special Needs Programs, St. Helene home in Kenscoff:
The winds here continue to menace us. At the back of our house you can hardly hear yourself speak because the noise is so loud. I took a very short walk as far as the pre-school and really it is too dangerous to walk anywhere as there are so many trees everywhere. Down where the outdoor chapel is I could see that several tall trees have cracked and it seems some have fallen. Up by the girls houses the winds seems very strong also.
Everybody is inside.
Down at the retreat house the wind is ferocious and the volunteers are mopping up as the place is full of water that has blown in.
In Kay Christine we are working with a handful of staff – none of our day staff were able to come in – our poor night staff could not go home so they are helping us.
It is dark because the electricity is out, but some solar lights are on.
There has been some water damage at the St. Anne baby house, but all the children and staff are safe. At the Don Bosco campus all is safe and sound.
Fr. Rick, Fr. Enzo and their teams are in Cite Soleil distributing 6,000 loaves of bread and water.
From Gena Heraty, NPH Haiti Director of Special Needs Programs, St. Helene home in Kenscoff:
Finally the winds have eased and we can move about. Most of our staff came to work today and so many stories of devastation after the hurricane. Houses goes, roofs blown away, animals lost, gardens destroyed – so, so sad. Here at St. Helene we are very, very lucky as many trees fell and they could have done a lot more damage.
During the worst of the storm, that was coming in gusts, I imagined Matthew was a big dragon, blowing destruction on everyone. I was terrified the trees were going to fall on our house and I prayed to God to send his angels to hold back the trees. I imagined the angels doing just that. As I walked around the property this morning I couldn’t help thinking that indeed the angels had been at work. Some trees fell right beside the kids houses. Some were inches away from causing terrible damage. Down by the outdoor chapel there is a mess. This is the only area in the whole property where there are no houses-how wonderful that Matthew could claim his trees there and not elsewhere! The kids are all happy to be out and about this morning and there is a big clean up going on.
We have a huge challenge to help those of our staff affected by the storm. One young widow and mother of four small kids lost her small house and everything in it. Another woman, just buried her father last week, had to take refuge in another house as the roof blew off her house. Two other women working with me are in the same plight.
If you feel you can help us, please do. We have to help. Before this people did not even have money to buy school books. How they will cope now I do not know. As for ourselves, we have to find a way to cut down trees that present a danger to the homes. Some are ready to fall. Plus who knows when we will have electricity again so we will be relying on our generators and this means increased fuel costs. So if ye can spare a few euros/dollars please do. Every bit helps! The country is again in crisis and we have to do what we can.
Hurricane Matthew is the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. While the destruction from the earthquake was primarily in the area of Port-au-Prince, Matthew has caused damage to a vastly larger area. Hundreds are dead and an estimated 60,000 people are homeless.
Following is a preliminary list of needs for our programs in Haiti.
In the short-term, we need funds to purchase building materials and food, and to provide access to healthcare, including cholera treatment for those too far from our hospital. Right now we expect to focus on:
- Cleaning and repairs at St. Helene, our main children’s home in Kenscoff
- Repairs at St. Anne, our baby house for children under age 6 in Tabarre
- Outreach to hermanos mayores (“older brothers and sisters” who were raised at NPH and now live on their own)
- Outreach to our surrounding community
In the longer-term, we need to help replant crops, and to aquire replacement livestock.
St. Damien Pediatric Hospital
Currently we plan to focus on:
- Implementing a plan to allow our employees to come to work and leave safely in light of increased criminal activity.
- Preparing for an increase in cholera cases, including, as above, helping those who cannot make it to the hospital.
- Outreach to our surrounding community, including providing food and water.
As above, in the longer-term, we expect to help people in the community replant crops and acquire new livestock to replace what was lost in the storm.
Our NPH Haiti pequeños are helping organize, pack and distribute supplies to hermanos mayores (“older brothers and sisters” who were raised at NPH and now live on their own), and families served by the Fr. Wasson Angels of Light program which was created to help people displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Following is a list of what has been distributed so far:
- 500 bags of rice
- 100 bags of beans
- 400 boxes of oil
- 20 bags of sugar
- 700 bags of pasta
- 4,000 servings of bread
- 9,000 liter-bags of water
- Hygiene supplies
I realized that 80% of our employees and children are from Jeremie and Les Cayes. We decided to organize a trip to Jeremie with the youth of our program. They will go to visit their relatives and to bring their support to anyone who is in need.
We want to share some food with the people. We are going to play with the children and we will have cinema show on Saturday night at Jeremie for the children.
Your support is welcome. You may not be able to make it with us but your prayers will be very helpful for those who are suffering there
This morning I went to visit some families here in the mountains. While we were not hit as bad as the south, and the mountains are still lovely and green, some of our neighbors also lost everything. Today I had some time to go take a look.
In a small area there was devastation all round. I met a family of six – they were sitting around chatting and had a warm welcome for me. There were two small wooden houses beside them and I presumed they lived in one of them. I asked how they were affected. They pointed to an empty space in front of me and told me that their house used to be there! I looked at the spot and could not imagine such a small area could have housed six people. As I looked closer I saw the flowers – every house in the country has a few flowers growing outside. These flowers were growing away, apparently oblivious to the fact that the house was gone.
I took a few pictures and promised to be a part of some solution and continued on to the next house.
In this house the roof was blown off. They have tried to cover it with tarps and old pieces of tin, but when it rains, the whole place is covered in water. In one bedroom a tarp is bulging with yesterday’s rain and Edner gets a bucket and lets the water down. Next time you are lying on your bed, look up and imagine looking at a flimsy tarp sagging with water! Then be very thankful you are not a poor person living in Haiti right now.
Another house is made from straw – the roof is a patchwork of blue tarps and clear plastic. The owner is sick and unable to work and he and his wife have two small kids. I wondered what they eat every day. I asked Edner and before he answered I answered myself – most days they don’t eat. Full stop.
I could keep going but I think you have the gist of it. Three things struck me this morning as I was visiting.
- These people were very poor BEFORE the hurricane. Their houses are small and made from wood. They were totally dependent on their crops/animals.
- This hurricane had placed them in a very, very, difficult critical situation. They have lost everything and they do not have rich relatives that might help them.
- Like the people in the south of Haiti – they need help. They need resources to help them help themselves. They need to get a dry roof over their heads and they need seeds so they can replant. They need some kind of food support until they can get back on their feet. They need people to imagine what it must be like to lose everything. To imagine what it must be like to have no access to relief funds. The people of Haiti need you to imagine what it must be like to have all your clothes wet and strewn about the place and even if you want to gather them up where will you put them? Your house is gone and what is left is full of water.
It is heartbreaking. The men and women I am working with are devastated. So many of them come from the south and their families are in dire straits.
I know so many people are worried about giving to charity. I know there have been terrible scandals related to charities. Please do not let a few people stop you from doing good. I have been here for 23 years now and I want you to know that your money has been well spent over the years.
Our organization has a very good reputation in Haiti and we need your continued support. The recovery for people will be a slow process. But with help we will make a big difference. With money we can get help many.
I promised these families we would get them help. Today we sent some food to them. The next step will be to help them buy tin so they can cover the roofs. We will help rebuild. They have the skills. They just need the resources. So many of you have already sent in money. Thank you so, so much. Keep it coming. The more we get, the more families we can help. We have 50 staff members that have families that have lost everything. If we can start by helping those 50 and then my dream would be that each 50 would reach out to five neighbors and help those. And we keep spreading and spreading. Every euro/dollar counts, so let no one worry that they cannot afford to help. Of course you can. Your 1 euro/dollar will buy a warm meal for a hungry child.
When bad things happen, good people need to do lots of good. Let’s do good together. As I was huffing and puffing up that mountain today I kept thinking – I have to be a voice for these people!
Thanks a million,
Located less than 2,000 miles from the U.S., Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Plagued by both political instability and natural disasters, 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on less than $2 a day. Access to healthcare is essentially non-existent. According to UNICEF, Haiti has the highest rate of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere. The January 2010 earthquake caused an estimated 300,000 injuries, which exacerbated the limited healthcare services.