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Early June rainstorm, earthquake further threaten Haitian people who were already struggling

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance responds with solidarity grants

by Cindy Corell, World Mission | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Marcdaline Abelard was in her home in the mountains above Leogane on Saturday, June 3, when her husband Claudy left to go search for the family goat. Rain was pouring and the wind had picked up.

While she waited, she tried to calm her baby who is only a few months old. Her 2-year-old and 4-year-old were frightened by the weather.

The heavy rains caused flash flooding that ripped through the mountain village.

Claudy never returned.

The June 3 weekend rainstorm left families across Haiti mourning loved ones and displaced from their homes. On its face, the storm wasn’t catastrophic except that it struck portions of Haiti already severely vulnerable by drought and other impacts of climate change.

During the month of June, storms and an earthquake have battered Haiti.

“It is with a heavy heart that we bring to your attention that Haiti has just been hit by heavy rain during the past weekend, which has made about 50 dead, 19 missing, 13,400 displaced and more than 37,000 affected,” FONDAMA said in a June 6 letter to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

FONDAMA is the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Joining Hands network in Haiti and a partner of World Mission and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. It notes that even before the heavy rain, Haiti was facing a severe humanitarian crisis “fueled by gang violence, bad governance and corruption.” Indeed, “with nearly half of its population in need of assistance, we can clearly say that the crisis (has) taken a dimension never seen before.”

As if the storm wasn’t enough to accentuate the point, an earthquake struck the lower peninsula on June 4, killing more and leaving dozens without a home.

“We are here in Jeremie, recovering from the aftermath of torrential rain, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake and aftershocks,” the Grand’Anse Health & Development Association (GAHDA) relayed in a letter to PDA. “Four people died when their houses collapsed on them. Some victims were transported by helicopter to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, for trauma care. Many suffered wounds and fractures; 484 families in the immediate area lost their homes. The situation in rural villages is variable, but the call for tarps to protect against the rain and sun is great. Food is needed as well. And we are now in hurricane season.”


Damage from the June 4 earthquake in Jeremie, Haiti (Photo courtesy of KPGA)

Mission co-worker Cindy Corell said the hurricane season will simply aggravate “the existing misery” in Haiti. The situation “just keeps getting worse.”

Haiti faces an active hurricane season and the effects of the El Niño weather pattern demonstrated by the early June rainstorms. Furthermore, Haiti’s historic poverty has been dramatically deepened by three years of political, economic and security turmoil.

Gangs have multiplied since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Through violent kidnappings, murder and the rape of women and children, the gangs control as much 80% of Port-au-Prince. In the rural areas as well, violence, fear of kidnapping and high inflation have crippled livelihoods.

If food is available, it is priced above the resources of residents. Work is difficult to find or keep.

Half of the population can’t feed their children.

Politically, while the international community has reacted to Haiti’s troubles, response has been limited.

“Our lives have been on hold for too long,” said Fabienne Jean, coordinator of FONDAMA.

The people of Haiti are exhausted of means, energy and, increasingly, hope.

“No one hears the screams of desperation of the Haitian people,” Jean said. “That is hell.”

Marcdaline Abelard, shown here with her two oldest children, lost her husband Claudy when severe flooding occurred near their home in Bosejou in the mountains above Leogane on June 3. (Photo courtesy of FONDAMA)

Known by its Krèyol acronym for Hands Together Foundation of Haiti, the FONDAMA network consists of community organizations across the country.

Three of those organizations — MULAC (Hands United to Liberate and Advance Community) in the Northwest, KPGA (Peasants Working Together in Grand Anse) in Grand Anse, and ODEPOL (Development Organization of Peasants of Leogane) in the West Department — felt the wrath of the storms.

The rainstorm severely damaged St. Croix Hospital in the nearby city of Leogane. The flooding destroyed most of the facility’s medical supplies. To the west, a temporary bridge over a river entering Jeremie broke apart. Landslides closed roads, wiped out gardens and livestock.

In the Northwest close to Port-de-Paix, another extremely vulnerable community, LaPointe, suffered great damage.

Rose Edith Germain is a coordinator of a community organization of FONDAMA. She said that two children in LaPointe died in the flooding. She said more than 1,500 families lost gardens and more than 2,000 livestock animals were lost. Several homes were destroyed and dozens of others heavily damaged.

The earthquake killed three people, according to Nicossa Paulemont, coordinator of KPGA. Manichekar Jean and Jerry and Charles Jean Baptiste were in the same house when the earthquake struck.

PDA is providing humanitarian assistance in Haiti through partners including FONDAMA, GAHDA, and APPUI AU DÉVELOPPEMENT LOCAL EN HAITI (Local Support and Development in Haiti or ADLH). It has approved solidarity grants for all three.

“We offer emergency assistance to 200 of the most affected and destitute families,” ADLH wrote in a PDA grant request to benefit people in the Leogane. “This action will consist of distributing food kits to these families while showing them human presence, compassion and moral support. This is sure to encourage them and help them in the process of resilience.”

GAHDA will use its PDA funding to help feed people and cover other expenses. “We are well positioned to be able to receive and share some food items to affected areas as we have done since 2016,” the association informed PDA. “Rice and cooking oil are requested most often. We can purchase some locally and distribute to families. Church leaders, whom we have worked with in the past, also asked for disaster assistance.”

FONDAMA is planning to distribute food kits, soap, toothpaste, sanitary towels and water purification tablets to people in affected areas and notes in its grant request that “the poorest families are always the most affected by these kinds of situations. They find themselves at bay, not knowing where to turn.”

The network also is alerting communities to prepare for coming disasters this hurricane season.

All of the grant recipients said they are thankful for PDA’s assistance.

Jean asks for prayers for the people of Haiti, and for continued accompaniment of the Haitian people.

“I would ask God to give back to the Haitian people their pride, their courage which will be necessary for them to get the country out of this slump,” she said. “It is obvious that no one other than the Haitian people can do something for this land.”

Cindy Corell is a mission co-worker serving in Haiti. PDA is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

To help PDA to respond to these and other disasters in Haiti, go here.

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