Hurricane Matthew – recovery in Haiti

Rosette stands by her broken home in Tiburon Commune on the southwest coast of Haiti. ©Medair/Lucy Bamford

On 3 October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti. The massive storm ranged from a category three to a category five, tearing across Haiti with winds that reached around 230 km/h. All We Can’s supporters responded with compassion to the call for giving to support Haiti and over £85,000 was given to the Haiti Hurricane Appeal. All We Can responded through its international humanitarian aid partners as well as its long-term partner in the country Église Méthodiste d’Haiti (EMH).

Update: April 2016

All We Can has worked with Église Méthodiste d’Haiti (EMH) since 2010. The Methodist Church’s health services consist of 11 health clinics – one in each of the Circuits in Haiti. This placed the Methodist Church in an ideal position to be able to respond immediately to the needs of communities affected by Hurricane Matthew. Problems resulted not only from the immediate damage caused by the hurricane but also from the pollution of the water supply in many areas.

Mondesir Yvenante and Dalmarnd Wilckerne served their community in Pelerin in the Cayes Circuit through the provision of a mobile clinic. Everyone in their community noticed an increase in sickness following Hurricane Matthew. While they had a good understanding of how to prevent waterborne diseases and sanitation the hurricane left houses without roofs and people in a situation where they became wet and cold in the days following the hurricane. Local church members like Mondesir and Dalmarnd were pleased to be able to help others suffering in their community.

Dalmarnd’s story

“The hurricane was very difficult. It is because of the grace of God that I am alive. The roof of my house was gone. I stayed in the house the whole time, in the wind, waiting. I had a child in my arms.

“I was really involved in the mobile clinic. I am the local preacher, so I was the one to announce that the clinic was coming. I rented a megaphone and walked around the community. Around 200 people came, that really pleased me. After Hurricane Matthew a lot of people were sick. Some had been able to go and get help but there had been those who couldn’t afford the travel or cost of medication and they had stayed with their problems. Around 200 people came to the clinic, and there were four people who were really emergency cases.”

Mondesir’s story

“We were so happy to receive the mobile clinic. It helped a lot of people who were able to then access health care. To get to the hospital in Cayes from here we need to get a taxi, which means paying money we do not have. Having the clinic here really helped everyone. Many people after the hurricane got sick. It was not only good for members of the church, but others in Pelerin. Everyone benefitted.

“I helped set up the clinic. I prepared tables, brought containers from home. I am the steward of the church, I serve the church. There were people in my own family who had a fever and a cough. After taking medicine prescribed by the doctor at the mobile clinic they felt better.”

Update: November 2016

In the days following Hurricane Matthew All We Can’s partner carried out an urgent assessment in Tiburon Commune, located on the country’s far southwest coast. This part of Haiti was very badly hit by the storm: The assessment found that 90 percent of the homes in Tiburon Commune were destroyed in the storm, and many community water points had been damaged, leaving many communities without safe drinking water.

Hurricane Matthew tore up most of the palm trees in the town, many by the roots, and brought them down on homes, the old school, and the little gazebo in the town square. The beach is now littered with storm debris and there are downed power lines and broken walls and buildings everywhere in the town. But the worst damage of all was done to the residents’ homes. Nearly every home was damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Together with our humanitarian aid partner in Haiti, Medair, 2,000 shelter kits (containing a tarp, rope, wiring, and basic tools to carry out repairs) and 2,000 hygiene kits (containing washing power, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, Aquatabs, and a bucket) were distributed to vulnerable families living in Tiburon Commune. They also carried out training on the importance of practicing good hygiene such as handwashing and using a latrine.

Rosette is one of the many in Tiburon who was badly affected by the storm. Her house was reduced to a pile of rocks sitting atop the cement foundation. A huge tree had been ripped up by the roots and thrown back down on to the main road leading into her little neighbourhood. Half the tree landed on the road, the other half landed on Rosette’s house.

Rosette stands outside what remains of her former home in Tiburon. ©Medair/Lucy Bamforth

Rosette and Tristiane’s story

Before Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti Tristiane and her daughter Rosette kept animals and had just finished building their home. Tristiane explained, “Before the storm we had goats and cows. We sold the meat. We also grew vegetables and sold them too. We put everything we saved into this house. It took years to save and build. We finished building in June. The only thing we had to do was smooth down the walls, but we were living in the house. It was ours.”

During the storm the women, and Rosette’s 16-month old son, sheltered in the local school. They believed their house would be strong enough to withstand the storm but were devastated to find it had been completely destroyed by the fallen tree. Rosette and Tristiane salvaged what they could from their home. Like many people who had lost their homes, they decided to stay in one of the schools in Tiburon town until they could find another shelter. They were there for about a week when a neighbour offered to let them live on his land. There they built a temporary home out of scrap materials.

Rosette and Tristiane are living in very difficult conditions and were given a shelter and hygiene kit. This included a tarpaulin. Rosette said, “I’m going to use the tarp to cover our house so that water doesn’t come in when it rains. Now that I’ve had the training, I’ll know how to put it on properly so it doesn’t blow away.”

Rosette and Tristiane will continue to have a great deal to worry about. With the loss of their home and their source of income, they currently don’t have a way to begin rebuilding the house they spent so many years saving for. But the provision of a tarp means Rosette is now able to provide her little boy with a dry place to sleep, and give him safe drinking water that won’t make him sick. She is able to wash his clothes and give him a bath. These are little things, but with so much else to worry about at the moment, these are the little things that will – at least temporarily – ease Rosette and Tristiane’s worries and give them a little bit of space to breathe.

With thanks to Lucy Bamforth, Communications Officer for Medair in Haiti, for providing this report  from Tiburon Commune, Haiti.