The impact of Hurricane Matthew devastated communities in south Haiti. Ailish O’Reilly, our Programmes Manager on the ground, shares how essential emergency relief efforts are being rolled out.
THURSDAY | DAY EIGHTEEN
It has rained steadily for 12 hours. Anyone without decent cover is looking at damp, wet belongings, clothes and bedding all over again. The risk of a cholera outbreak goes up each time it rains.
We meet with the mayor again to discuss tomorrow’s distribution and agree a plan, although we are not so sure of how it will work out, so we have our contingency in place. There are more tarpaulins to be given out.
Girlande and Alienne head to the market to meet the Chache Lavi beneficiaries and assess commercial activity in general – what is on sale; what changes have there been in prices; is there any local produce available?. Crowds are inclined to gather near the office and press us with requests for a donation of a tarpaulin or food. We want to close the office at lunchtime so plan an afternoon of field visits, and there is a shipment to pick up in Les Cayes.
I head out to see Jean Nexon, telling the guys not to keep the boat to Cayes waiting for me. Thankfully, he has improved a little, enough to ease my fears. We have more ties for the tarpaulin to keep it in place and keep the rain off him and his family. I’ll be back again tomorrow to check on him.
As I head back to town, I get a call: as the shipment from Port au Prince is delayed, I can still make it in time for the boat.
We hit off, but, before we are gone 15 minutes, we get another update. The cholera tent due in today from Port au Prince has to turn back, due to both heavy rains on the road and protests further south. As it is a truck shipment, we don’t want to risk losing the tent to looting, so the convoy turns back and will leave in the morning at 5am.
The trip to Les Cayes is cancelled, so this gives us time for lunch in Kaykok and a meeting with Bill’s team.
It is a quiet afternoon compared to our usual activity level. There is a lot of debate about what is the best response to the emergency.
We have a conference call with the United States about a shipment due in January 2017: this is planning the long-term response, and we have a number of suggestions on what aid needs to come. This depends on, one, Haven having adequate resources to address immediate and medium-term needs, like shelter and food; two, avoiding any major food security issues on the mainland (with local food sources almost non-existent, we are dependent on our main supply route); and, three, enduring no more major setbacks.
We hike down to where we meet the boat and, in the falling light, the path is unfamiliar to us. Rocky paths where once were sandy beaches; upturned trees to climb over and go around. We hop on the boat and make tracks for Madame Bernard. In the distance, there is thunder rolling, and the darkened sky means more rain.
The market is well closed, and everyone is gone home. There is a great debate about rain, and it eventually starts to fall steadily. Later in the evening, the wind rises and a sudden flap of tin on my neighbour’s roof startles me quite a bit. The WiFi and phone signal are gone again, and we are waiting on an early morning call from Dublin. They might not be able to get through and we are to wait up until 1am to see if we can get a connection.
This wind is nothing even closely resembling the hurricane, but we are conscious of buildings in a poor state already. Walking down the hill this morning, just inside the fence, the old abandoned toilet blocks at the brothers’ school finally gave way and collapsed.
I sleep in a decent house – but not all my neighbours can claim the same comfort. We have garden sheds at home that offer more comfort and protection than the sleeping conditions of many children here in Haiti tonight.