This post was written by Arianne Pingledis, Program Assistant for Hope for Haiti, a charitable organization operating in Port-au-Prince and out of Les Cayes in the south of Haiti with the mission to improve the quality of the Haitian people, particularly children, through education, nutrition, and healthcare. For over 20 years, the organization has been working in partnership with the Haitian people, to connect, heal, and empower communities on the path toward sustainability.
Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the Caribbean last week, hitting Haiti particularly hard. With 52 confirmed dead and many more missing, the people of Haiti are feeling the effects of a hurricane that no one was anticipating. Weather reports warned of a hurricane headed for Jamaica and Cuba, but when rain started steadily falling in Les Cayes last Tuesday, we knew Sandy was not going to simply pass us by. By Wednesday the steady rain had increased to downpours and brought with it high winds; by Thursday, much of the South was under water.
Flooding has long been a problem in Haiti due to severe deforestation. With no trees to protect the mountainsides, even small amounts of rain can lead to flooding and landslides. In the community of Baradères in southern Haiti, residents were forced to the roofs of their homes as floodwaters rose nearly to the second story. Farther north in Port-au-Prince, roads have been washed out and bridges swept away as rivers overflowed their banks.
In addition to destroying homes, recent floods have also caused widespread crop damage, threatening the already-perilous food security of the nation and impacting the livelihoods of millions in a country where the majority of the population depends on agricultural production. Corn, beans, bananas and breadfruit, all staple crops, have largely been destroyed.
The destruction of Sandy has hit already-vulnerable communities in the South especially hard, coming just two months after Tropical Storm Isaac passed over the nation, bringing with it heavy rain and high wind. With natural disasters come not only destruction, but also disease. Cholera, a waterborne illness, quickly pops up in the aftermath of such storms. Local program partners have already reported more than 50 cases in communities throughout the south, and that number continues to rise. While treatable, cholera has caused many deaths in Haiti due to a lack of access to treatment, especially in rural areas where road conditions are poor and it is often several hours to the nearest clinic.
Hope for Haiti, operating out of Les Cayes in southern Haiti, began emergency relief efforts immediately, distributing emergency buckets to those hit hardest by Sandy. Our emergency buckets contain enough supplies to last for five days for a family of five in the aftermath of an emergency. Food, soap, candles, matches, and water purification tablets are among the items included in the buckets.
Since last Thursday, more than 1,500 buckets have been distributed, with more planned as floodwaters continue to recede and roads are cleared of debris. In addition to emergency buckets, Hope for Haiti has been delivering first aid materials and cholera response supplies to our healthcare program partners in the South, including water jugs, hand sanitizer, oral rehydration salts, IV solution and other medications.
As the situation in Haiti continues to develop, Hope for Haiti will continue to assess the needs of our program partners and provide emergency assistance. To stay up to date on how we are helping, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. For more information on how Hurricane Sandy has impacted southern Haiti, please visit our website.