With crops destroyed, homes flooded and care centers damaged, our staff and partners in Haiti face critical and urgent needs to help children and families recover from Hurricane Matthew.
Last week, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti with torrential rain and 145-mile-per-hour winds. For Haitians, the devastation from the storm can’t be overstated — especially those living along the southwest coast, which was hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. Many people lost their most valuable possessions, such as goats, cows or other farm animals, small fishing boats, nets or crops — robbing them of their livelihood, their income and their ability to care for their children without international assistance. Many Haitian families were already vulnerable before the storm, and Hurricane Matthew has only increased their instability.
Prior to the storm, many people did what they could to prepare their homes and livestock for the impending force. They blocked their window and doors, or evacuated to higher ground. But for many children and families, especially those living in the most impoverished areas, they had nowhere else to go.
From our headquarters office in Eugene, Oregon, we emailed our staff and partners in Haiti. We told them we were praying for them and hoping for the best — perhaps Hurricane Matthew would fizzle out or miss the Haitian coastline.
Holt Haiti’s in-country director, Beverly Sannon, delivered emergency food and water to caregivers and childcare centers before the storm began. She did her best to ensure the 200 children in our family strengthening and orphan care programs had what they needed to survive the storm, but naturally, it’s impossible to prepare for an unpredictable hurricane. Especially in Port-au-Prince, so much depends on geography, since the many hillsides can prevent or accelerate flooding, and block or propel the force of wind.
The director of an orphanage Holt partners with took children in care to her home — since it is sturdier and built on higher ground that the orphanage.
On October 4, we lost all internet communications with our staff, and phone reception was weak and intermittent at best. We kept our eyes on the news, hoping for updates. We waited.
The first email we received from our on-the-ground partners following Hurricane Matthew came from staff in Port-au-Prince. The message was short, but clear in it’s meaning:
“Here is the report from the team. Lots damaged. I am in tears. We need donations and volunteers.”
That email came through on October 6, just hours after the storm calmed enough to allow people to begin assessing the damages.
The United Nations called the devastation Haiti’s worst humanitarian crisis since the earthquake in 2010. The small town of Jeremie on the southern coast of Haiti was one of the hardest hit, with some neighborhoods nearly leveled. On the northern coastline, entire forests were destroyed. And while most of Holt’s programs and partners are in areas that were less heavily affected by the storm, the devastation is still overwhelming.
At one orphanage, crumpled blue tin and shredded metal framing were left in heaps where there had once been a roof.A large, broken pine tree stuck up out of the crumbled remains of a room where children — thankfully taken to higher ground for the storm — usually sleep. The children’s games and reading room was filled with water. Their toys and belongings were destroyed.
Slowly, staff heard from one family and then another. And with each, we praised God. Another family had survived. But with our gratitude came the grief of hearing about their losses.
Women in our family strengthening programs shared about how their homes had been damaged, their small business flooded and their crops destroyed — literally, their livelihoods and the tools they depend on to provide for their children washed away.
Caregivers shared how they comforted children through the storm, whispered to them softly while the wind and rain ravaged the world around them. But despite their own fear and panic, they stayed strong for the children.
“The situation is very catastrophic,” one of our partner staff wrote. “The material damage is significant. The children are well, but the space is damaged. A lot of water in the rooms.”Still, our children and families were lucky. Throughout Haiti, about 1,000 people have died. More than 350,000 people are homeless and more than 1.5 million have been affected by the storm.
The needs in Haiti are immediate and critical — food, water and temporary shelter. Waterborne diseases that thrive after flooding, like cholera, threaten thousands and limited access to hospitals and medicine mean that outbreaks of disease could be deadly — perhaps even more so than Hurricane Matthew.
If you are able to, please donate to our hurricane relief fund, which will rush emergency aid to children and families in need. Proceeds will also help with long-term rebuilding efforts, like fixing orphanages and helping families repair their homes, gardens and businesses. It will also help provide medical aid, should the need arise, and replace the clothes, school supplies and toys that children lost.
As always, continue to join us in prayer for the people of Haiti, for their recovery and for their futures.