Hurricane Matthew Update | “Let me remind you that the year is 2016”

Ailish O’Reilly, our Programmes Manager in Haiti, shares the latest updates from the emergency response on the ground in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.


Sleep has become the priority.  After a nine hour stretch on Monday night, I’m ready for battle on Tuesday.

We start with the morning visit to the orphanage, where the children are almost ready for school which re-opens today.  At our temporary office, things don’t go exactly to plan: the Chache Lavi office is not ready to move in to, so we reorganise our day for home visits.  Girlande and Alienne head out to meet beneficiaries in Grand Sab, Nan Roche and Grande Plaine.  They will gather information on house damage, and losses to garden, livestock and commerce.

We meet with Mayor Amazon to plan distribution for the week and look at the areas of priority for our emergency response.   It is a long meeting, and he is frequently interrupted by calls and requests.  We are very happy with his thoughts on aid delivery and how to co-ordinate the recovery, and agree on the process we will use.

We are testing wells and water points on Île à Vache.  We issue the sample bottles, gloves and a GPS tracker to our local well drilling and repair team.  If the water is clear, we take a test sample and arrange for cleaning.  If the water is dirty, we mark it for dig-out, and talk to the community to get this started.

In some cases like Gros Morne and Seulette, they have already started digging out the wells.  Over in Kaykok, another group has started cleaning and treating the wells.  We only have one pump and getting it around the island at the moment is an issue.  We are issuing aquatabs for water treatment, alongside cleaning and treatment at source.

During lunch, the team from Kaykok are back with an electrician in tow.  First order of business is a cup of tea; then, they look at getting our house back on power.  The inverter is shot – possibly rain or possibly a lightning strike once the roof blew off the ‘bathroom’.

Then, we head to the orphanage to try to restore light to the pharmacy and to Sr Flora’s treatment room.  She continues to be the on-call medical cover for the island; she delivered a baby two nights previously.  The electrician tries valiantly to connect up the light, but has to leave it until he has more equipment; he gets light in the pharmacy, so at least this is some help.

We are meeting with local boss Calise to look at closing out existing projects, price contracts on roadworks, and a house for the family of a child in our outreach programme: his name is Jean Nexon.

Jean Nexon is 14 years of age and lives with a disability; his condition is severely aggravated by malnourishment.  His mother Deulita is his primary carer, and Jean Nexon’s condition steadily deteriorated after his father died a few years ago.  Deulita’s other two children have no regard for their brother and, as far as we can determine, do not assist in any way with his care.  Deulita herself is overburdened, malnourished, and very badly supported by her own siblings or young adult children.

They lived in a grass house in a field until the night of the storm, when a mango tree fell on their hut and flattened it.  Let me remind you that the year is 2016 – and no, they had no toilet, running water or electricity. 

They are now living in the small grass house next door, and we have covered it with tarpaulin to keep the rain out.  Jean Nexon is back sleeping on a pile of blankets on the earthen floor.  He has developed gripay [flu] and we bring more medicine to treat him.  We have been supporting Jean Nexon since earlier this year, and he was one of the children to come to our beach day in July.  We helped Deulita with training on gardening.  The damage the storm has done is a huge setback to her.

She doesn’t know yet that some of the Haven volunteers are putting together the funds to build her a small new block house.  We will get her garden prepared for planting; hopefully, her brother will step up on this and get that work done, so that we can include them in our replanting programme.

Shelter, food security, and support for Jean Nexon: if we can put these three systems in place, then maybe life for Deulita and her son might be more of the quality that any human being deserves.


To help Haven’s recovery efforts in Haiti, please give what you can here.  100% of funds raised go directly to our emergency relief work on the ground.

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