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Presbyterian Disaster Assistance assesses damage in Haiti

The impact of Hurricane Matthew to be felt for years

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

A survivor is carried to safety through a flooded street. (Photo courtesy Lutheran World Federation, Haiti)

A survivor is carried to safety through a flooded street. (Photo courtesy Lutheran World Federation, Haiti)

LOUISVILLE – It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, leaving a path of death and destruction that will take years for its residents to recover. More than a thousand people are believed to have perished when the hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm on October 4. The 145 mph winds made it the strongest storm to hit the nation since Hurricane Cleo in 1964, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance recently sent International Disaster Response Associate Luke Asikoye to the island nation to determine how the church can best respond to people’s needs. He says he found community after community in shambles with little or no food for the long haul.

“Food prices are going up,” said Asikoye. “People are being displaced, those without shelter have been moved to school buildings so that has affected the education system.”

Asikoye says the destruction has not only taken people’s homes, but their means of supporting themselves.

“Farming was their livelihood. A lot of them are destitute now because they’re trying to start again. There’s a lot of debris, their farmland and crops are washed away and they’ve lost their animals,” he said. “This is a population that was already very poor and destitute, so this just made things worse and it was heartbreaking to see them live like this.”

An estimated 200,000 homes were destroyed, leaving more than a million people in need of humanitarian aid. The monetary damage was estimated at nearly $2 billion.

Asikoye joined mission co-worker Cindy Corell to assess the damage and determine where PDA can best help. He said they are in the process of designing a response now.

“We’ve heard some interest from some of our partners in Latin America. We want to help the people of this region get on their feet as quickly as possible,” Asikoye said. “If we focus on livelihood, they can begin to rebuild shelter and meet the basic needs of their families.”

Haiti was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake when Matthew came ashore, setting recovery back years. In addition to the damage, authorities are concerned about the health risk, including rising cases of Cholera. Hundreds of new cases were reported shortly after the storm and health officials are working on preventative measures.

“Haitians are currently living hand to mouth, but they are resilient,” he said. “They are hopeful, and yet there is an element of resignation and they are looking into themselves for solutions. The only hope is what humanitarian organizations bring to the table.”

In addition to helping Haitians recover from the disaster, Asikoye says PDA and its partners will work with Haiti to improve disaster communication and preparedness for future natural disasters. “We want to do this at a time when there is no calamity. We believe it will help reduce the loss of life and property in future events.”

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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 box 643700
Pittsburg, 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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