More than two weeks after the passage of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the damage is still being assessed. Access to the most affected departments of Grande-Anse and Sud remains difficult because of blocked or flooded roads. Development and Peace – Caritas Canada’s partners on the ground are currently assessing urgent needs, however, they are also taking into account the needs that are inherent in rebuilding shattered lives and communities in Grande Anse and Sud that lost almost 100% of their vegetable gardens and livestock.
In an interview last week on Radio VM, Bishop Toussaint, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince and President of Caritas Haiti, said that “we need to help the people regain their independence by providing material for building emergency shelters, but they also need help so they can produce their own food. In Les Cayes, the breadbasket of Port-au-Prince, we have to relaunch vegetable gardens to help people have at least the minimum. We cannot just stay in a situation of continually receiving assistance and ask the international community to feed us.”
Indeed, the hurricane mercilessly pummeled Haiti’s agricultural sector, from the highest hills, where powerful winds uprooted everything in their path, down to the valleys, which were flooded by rising rivers. Vegetable gardens and fruit trees have almost completely disappeared from the landscape, while livestock (goats, bovine and equine) did not survive.
Marie-Ange Noël, Coordinator of Fanm Deside, reports that “rural women have lost all their crops, food and animals. Not just the women farmers, but merchants have also lost their homes. The first thing that must be done is to provide families with food and water, as well as with wood and oil, sanitary products for basic hygiene and doing laundry. We are concerned about the vulnerability of women and girls and we are working with civil protection services to ensure they are not victims of abuse, whether during distributions or in temporary shelters.”
Tèt Kole, a peasant association in the affected regions, carried out a rapid initial assessment and reached the same conclusion: “We have to start thinking about replanting, beginning as early as December 2016 and January 2017, with priority being given to families headed up by women and families with more than three children.”
The entire cacao-processing system in the region has been affected: the cacao plantation plots have been uprooted and the processing facilities destroyed. According to to local community organization FESMAR, “in order to enable our various partners to resume their activities — whether those activities involve farming, processing agricultural products, livestock-raising or rehabilitating the environment — as quickly as possible, various initiatives will have to be undertaken urgently in the short, medium and long term.” In the short term, FESMAR’s members will have to do home repairs as well as rebuild the infrastructures for processing, preparing and storing their production. It will also be necessary to provide the population with farming tools, inputs and equipment that will enable them to resume their agricultural activities; nurseries will also have to be set up across the communities in the regions concerned.
A partner working in community radio for women also visited the southern regions to assess damage, both to the local radio stations in the region as well as to the women who work at them. The delegation found that the hurricane had ripped out most of the antennas and most of the women’s houses, and new crops were damaged or destroyed as well. The organization wants to help out with a quick response by providing hygiene and food kits, but also by acquiring a generator and equipment to get the radio stations up and running again. “Awareness-raising, training and education should be the three cornerstones to help get our country out of its stagnation and respond to the disastrous situation we are facing,” said our partner.
While our partners are still assessing the situation, a team from Development and Peace will travel to the region next week to meet people on the ground and bring them our message of solidarity. It will also be an opportunity to establish new partnerships in the affected areas.
He thanked the Canadian Church for the appeal it has made for donations and the special collections that are being organized in parishes across Canada to support the people of Haiti.