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Clean up begins in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew

International appeal for assistance in the region

by Rick Jones and Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

A girl walks on a street damaged in Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, in western Haiti, on October 7, 2016. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged over 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country's south. (Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

A girl walks on a street damaged in Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie, in western Haiti, on October 7, 2016. The full scale of the devastation in hurricane-hit rural Haiti became clear as the death toll surged over 400, three days after Hurricane Matthew leveled huge swaths of the country’s south. (Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)

LOUISVILLE – Days after Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti, authorities are still trying to determine the extent of damage left behind. According to the latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 350,000 people are in need of assistance in Haiti. More than 15,000 people were displaced and hundreds are known to have died in the storm itself.

“The southern part of Haiti suffered the most,” said Luke Asikoye, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance associate for international disaster response. “The homes were not very good to begin with, mostly shacks which just compounded the situation. Most of the crops that people depended on for their livelihood, were washed away.”

Haiti has been in recovery mode for several years following an earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. PDA has been working with its partners in the region to make repairs. Sandy recovery work is in some of the same areas impacted by Matthew. Asikoye says work on those projects will be able to continue with additional funding.

“The government warned people to move, but where could they go?” asked Asikoye. “Floods washed away the bridge that provided the main connection with the rest of the island so they were cut off. Many were killed by debris from the houses, trees and surge of water.”

Cindy Corell, a mission co-worker in Haiti, has been in the U.S. the past several weeks but is keeping close tabs on the developments in the region.

“In Jeremie, the ‘City of Poets,’ located on the far southwestern tip on the peninsula, 95 percent of the buildings are gone, almost 1,000 people have died and that number is rising by the minute,” said Corell. “All of the gardens where the hungry pull their food from are flooded or broken down by winds. The fruit trees are gone and the livestock did not survive. There’s no food. Aid is trickling in and we can only pray and hope that it’s fast enough because there is no clean water.”

Corell, who has been speaking to groups and congregations, has spent the last week on the phone or the Internet trying to track down people and details.

“I’ve been working with our network in Haiti, trying to get food and water and supplies down to the southwest and I’ve been examining photographs for people I know,” she said. “From the photos I’ve seen, it looks more like a war zone. The already fragile board homes are rickety, if they’re standing at all.”

Corell adds that the images of residents hanging their clothing to dry and chasing after aid trucks, show they’ve not given up.

Mark Hare and his wife, Jenny Bent, are also mission co-workers in Haiti as well as the Dominican Republic, where they are currently located.

“Hurricane Matthew was like a very bad dream, watching a slow-motion bullet heading toward someone you love, unable to do anything to stop it,” said Hare. “I kept the National Hurricane Center’s page open for five or six days; morning, afternoon and night to see what the storm was doing.”

The couple has kept in close contact with their friends and partners in Haiti. Hare talked with the coordinator of a farmer organization in Leogane.

“The initial news was that all of the crops were lost, most of the farm animals were dead and many of the houses had been completely destroyed,” he said. “They shared that the hurricane left them nothing except their lives.”

The focus now, according to Asikoye, is to get emergency assistance to those in need.

“We’re dealing with food security issues now. There is no food and the people need to be sustained in order to begin to rebuild,” he said. “Water and sanitation are also problems because of the growing threat of cholera.”

OCHA reports as many as 13 deaths from cholera since Matthew hit. Health facilities are prepared to assist, but authorities say communication is still a problem, as is shelter.

Gusty winds and high waves also battered the eastern and central coast of Cuba. Damage reports included coastal flooding, landslides, collapsed bridges and fallen trees. Approximately 95 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed. The destruction of banana, coconut and cocoa plantations have caused food security issues. Asikoye says it could have been worse had government and disaster officials not evacuated more than a million people.

PDA is processing $20,000 through the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC), for the ACT appeal in Cuba. The appeal is for initial response including food security, water and sanitation, psychosocial support, shelter and early recovery and livelihood restoration.

“I’m returning to Haiti on October 25. I will be back with my family there and with my people,” said Corell. “I’m carrying the love that I feel in the churches here and I’m going to carry those hugs back with me.”

Hare says he’s confident the people of Haiti will bounce back from this disaster.

“I have worked with Haitian farmers and their organizations long enough to deeply respect them for their strength and tenacity,” he said. “I have no doubt that, individually and together, the rural people of Haiti will find a way through this calamity as they have found a way through so many tumultuous times during their 200 plus years of history.”

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To support recovery efforts in Haiti and Cuba in the wake of Matthew, go to this page. The PC(USA) website provides opportunities to donate securely and quickly.

Donors can also mail a check with “DR000193” on the memo line and send to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
PO Bo 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

Donations can also be made by phone by calling 1-800-872-3283.

Visit pda.pcusa.org for continuing updates. Your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing enable PDA to respond immediately.


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