Hurricane Matthew Update | “We keep looking up and moving forward”

Haven’s team in Haiti is moving from emergency relief efforts to recovery in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.  Here, our Programmes Manager Ailish O’Reilly brings us through the beginning stages of this process.


Two men looked out from prison bars: one saw the mud, the other saw the stars.
Saturday is a muddy day, and la boul [mud] is a heavy thing to tramp around on in your boots.  But, at least the sun is shining, so we keep looking up and moving forward, aiming for the stars.

Outside the front door is a collection of wet and muddy trainers and boots.  At this stage of proceedings, after three weeks of dampness and mud, leaving them inside is not really good housemate behaviour.

Damien is gone to Cavaillon to work on the Christine Farm and distribute aid.  The shipment from Port au Prince gets through in the early morning, and the boat returns with the cholera tent, bringing medicines and supplies for an immediate cholera response.  We are still cholera-free and, now that we have these supplies in place, we have the capacity for an immediate critical response.


With the Les Cayes hospital in flood, it is a sigh of relief to us.  Île à Vache is in a precarious position: each time we are getting hit, the local mainland gets hit, and this cuts off our back-up resources.  Self-sufficiency is key for all critical services.  We divide the supplies between the medical centre and the orphanage, so that we have 24 hour access.

Less urgent but still needed are the batteries and panels for the house and for Bill’s installation in Kaykok.  When the roof and door of the bathroom/depot flew off during the hurricane, it exposed the inverter, batteries and controller to the elements.  The temporary inverter has been very good to keep basic power and, to conserve it, we have only been charging phones and laptops.  We are still using KLERE’M solar lighting packs, and have left the fridge and WiFi unplugged.

The shipment is stored away.  The batteries and tent are quite heavy, and it’s manual labour in hot sun.  We have a tarpaulin delivery to the parish priest, and are back up to the house for a few hours’ work on emergency aid applications and reports on the post-hurricane response.

Bill and the team drop by to collect their batteries on their way back from the mainland.  Things are going steady for them in Kaykok, and they are getting on with the work.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Tim has a medical request for an eight-year-old girl with asthma.  It is the weekend so the medical centre is closed and we don’t have a doctor.  The medical team which was due to come in and do a clinic on Saturday could not come to Île à Vache due to yesterday’s rain, so we reschedule the clinic for Monday.  We get the prescription filled in the orphanage pharmacy.  This should suffice for now, and Tim can refer all cases to the clinic in Kaykok or to us in Madame Bernard on Monday.

There is still no fix for the pump handle; welding isn’t a good option, as it won’t hold for long.  We have a search out for a matching part, but the pumps we now use are a different design and not a neat fit.  We send the kits and buckets for Kaykok back on the boat with Bill and shut up shop by 4pm.

What you might call a ‘handy day’ in terms of emergency aid: we have had no evacuations or critical medical issues and, with the volunteer team of doctors just arriving into Grande Plaine, we’ve pulled through another day.

It’s amazing what an easy day consists of when you are aiming for the stars!

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