In early October 2016 a devastating hurricane swept over Haiti and caused death and destruction particularly in the southwest of the island. The people here have lost everything: their houses have been massively damaged or totally destroyed, fields and crops ruined and there is no clean water supply. Survivors have been left with no food, and face a cholera epidemic.
1.4 million people urgently need help, including almost 600,000 children.
Fifty-year-old Nancy Josef and her husband used to run a grocery store in the coastal town of Port Salut, an almost idyllic tourist resort with one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. On the day the hurricane hit, Nancy and her five children fled the family home after a friend phoned to tell her that the storm was going to be a violent one. Her husband was reluctant to leave initially, but joined them later. This saved their lives. Nancy now stands in the rain amidst the ruins of her house, cooking under a makeshift tarpaulin roof in the one room left standing. She is desperate. A lot of people have come by since the hurricane and told her that she will soon receive help, but there is no sign of it yet.
“We don’t even have anything to eat. I borrow food for the children from the neighbours. I don’t see any way out.”
The UN and local authorities are coordinating international humanitarian aid. But huge swathes of the country have been destroyed and the needs are immeasurable. Many areas in the southwest of the island are still inaccessible. Nine of our partner relief organizations are providing emergency aid via their local network, using helicopters to reach some of the most remote regions in the mountains and boats along the coast.
The rainy season is approaching and this will make the situation worse for those without a roof over their heads, and make it more difficult to transport aid along the roughly repaired roads.
Besides the badly hit southwest, other parts of the country were also struck by flooding, which destroyed the harvest and food supplies. This immediately led to a rise in local food prices, and most Haitians cannot afford imported products. The people in the southwest of the island, which was worst affected by the hurricane, are currently receiving emergency food aid, but there is not enough to go around and the fear is that hunger may tip over into violence. The island faces a famine in the medium term.
Parts of the southwest are only accessible by water. Aid deliveries reach the village of Tiburon.
Twenty-year-old Sarah Saint-Pierre lives in the hills of Léogane 50 kilometres southwest of Haiti’s capital. This was the epicentre of the violent earthquake that shook the island in 2010, in which robbed Sarah, her three sisters and parents lost everything.
Thanks to the donations that we collected at the time, and with the support of the Swiss Red Cross, they once again have a house, and one that was able to withstand Hurricane Matthew.
Sarah was very anxious during the storm and left the house because she thought it might be blown away, being made only of wood. It was only after she returned that she saw that it was still standing. She explains that she will always be afraid, each time a hurricane hits. Like the earthquake, this catastrophe shook her to the core. But she is glad that the house survived:
“We always live in hope. After every disaster, we simply have to try to live on. And just keep hoping.”
The hill region is not as exposed as the southwest of the island. The house and covered latrine are still standing, but the vegetable garden has been wiped out, and a wooden lean-to in which six other relatives were living has been destroyed. This means that 12 people are now living in an area of just 29 square metres in the house built with the help of the Red Cross in 2010.
In the first phase of the emergency relief following the hurricane, emergency shelters are eing constructed and drinking water and materials for provisional repairs to houses and in the fields are being distributed. People are also being shown how avoid diseases caused by water pollution.
Swiss Solidarity and many other Swiss relief organizations have lots of experience in Haiti, so we can help quickly and efficiently. After the earthquake in 2010, we donated 61.8 million Swiss francs supporting 84 aid projects. 2700 houses were repaired or reerected, 3300 latrines were built and 2500 water reservoirs were constructed.