Hurricane Matthew Update | “It’s the day of the deluge”

Extremely heavy rainfall on the island of Île à Vache marks another setback for its people in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.  Here, Ailish O’Reilly, our Programmes Manager on the ground, tells us exactly what’s going on.


The morning starts off brightly enough.  We stop for a chat with Damien on the wharf; he is heading to Les Cayes with the boat to collect the cholera tent and more food from JACO.

When we arrive at the office, the first CPC is there waiting for us already.  Jonest is from Grand Sab, and he gets his allocation of food kits and distributes them directly.

It is the start of a long, pressurised day.  The CPC has organised for everyone to come in and get their kits outside of the office.  What they haven’t allowed for is that we do not have kits for everyone on the island; for example, a group of 94 people are waiting outside, but their allocation is only 50 kits.

We try to explain that we want to help everyone, it is just not possible with the resources we have.  Country Director John Moore plays a blinder with the help of about four local guys. 


We have had a long list of begging requests: people constantly call out your name trying to get special preference.  People also present their NIF card [fiscal identity card] as they have heard how the CPC system works; they are hoping we will make a mistake, and give them the allocation.  The strategies are varied and, if we were not under so much pressure, would be quite humorous an exchange.  If the mayor and CPC do this right, then, over the two or three distribution cycles, everyone who needs it should get their allocation.

With the feedback coming in, we already know the zones that are making the most complaints about their allocation.  The strength of the system is that the CPC representative lives in the zone where they distribute.  Peer pressure should keep them honest, and the community can go back to the mayor with their information.  There are no complaints from some of the zones, and it is easily know that communication and distribution there is being well handled.

Flawed or not, this is the Haitian system by their established community groups and elected mayor – we will support it as long as we can assure an adequate level of fairness and that it is apolitical.

We could hear the thunder rolling frequently overhead and were not too bothered, as a bit of rain might help disperse the hangers-on who didn’t have a valid reason to be there.  Word reached us of terrible rain in Les Cayes: three feet of flooding as early as 7am that morning, and none of the boat captains wanted to leave.  Damien was still on the wharf in Madame Bernard at midday; the truck was stuck in floods outside Cavaillon, and the car was stuck in Les Cayes.

We finished up distribution around 2pm, and closed the office to disperse the crowds outside.  Things were a little heated so we were anxious to leave, when another thunder shower struck.  We know the old adage “be careful what you wish for”, so, in our defence, we weren’t wishing for it.  Thirty minutes later, it had eased enough to leave the office, but it was a temporary reprieve and, by 3pm, the skies had darkened, and we were again discussing rain.

It started to pour shortly after that – and poured and poured and poured from the skies.  We have posted the video on Facebook.  People in the village were bailing out their houses by the bucketful.  Within an hour, we were ankle deep in muddy floods, and the sea and market square were again level – water level that is.  It ran like a river down the hills.  For those who have been here before, the last stretch of road we put in was transformed into a gurgling stream, washing earth, stones and even rocks down the incline.

From late afternoon until about 7pm, buckets, torrents, monsoons, cats and dog – pick your favourite, it rained it.  We thought the 12 hours yesterday was a lot for people to bear and now this.

What’s next for the people of Haiti?

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