As though the country couldn’t go through more turmoil, after three failed elections, a depreciating gourde, and spending cuts in education and other key sectors, Hurricane Matthew comes along and hits Haiti with all its force.
As a result, one out of ten Haitians are in urgent needed of humanitarian assistance and most are concentrated in the South and North of Haiti. As many of you following our activities know, we work primarily in Kenscoff and Cité Soleil, neither of these areas located in the Southern Departments of Haiti, which are receiving the most media coverage Post-Matthew crisis. However, this does not mean the areas where we work in are simply untouched—oh no.
Our awesome new Country Director Amandine and her wingman, Jean Paul (JP), went to Kenscoff to assess the situation. Although damage is not as severe as it is in the south, where nearly 95% of property was damaged, in Kenscoff nearly 55% of houses had their roofs ripped off during the storm. That means there are still huge needs in “non-affected” areas such as Kenscoff, not to mention the road blocks caused by fallen debris that are hindering the transport of critical aid and supplies.
Amandine, who's name to this non-native French speaker reminds me of almonds or speeding tickets, was ready to act. She was able to get a hold of 32,000 Aquatabs in 24 hours, while my colleague and I struggled for three days trying to figure out how to ship a container of these water purifying tablets from Ireland to Haiti (yes, that’s where they are produced).
Why water purifying tablets? It’s a good question given that many other NGOs Post-Matthew relief efforts have also focused on water purification. See our partner Laurent’s fundraiser. In short, when countries like Haiti that do not have national sewage infrastructure get flooded, or severely rained on, fecal matter, both animal and human, gets carried by rainwater to larger streams and rivers that then contaminate tributaries connecting to potable drinking sources. That’s how you end up with a widespread health epidemic, especially for diseases like cholera that can kill you in a day.
So what are we doing? Back to Amandine who went Harley Davidson humanitarian and got on a motorbike with JP and strapped Aquatab boxes to themselves and drove to five remote villages Kenscoff: Ati, Robin, Bernard, Dumisso, and Nouvelle Tourraine. They ditched the car that wouldn’t be able to make the trip of narrow foot trails and mountainous peaks. Amandine and JP visited each village’s clinic and gave the nurses and residents Aquatabs and training on them how to use them, the importance of purifying water and strategies to prevent waterborne illnesses.
We hope that such efforts will prevent the further spread of waterborne epidemics, since Amandine already caught wind of several cholera cases from nearby communities. Overall, what she took away from her visits was how egregiously these Kenscoff villages have been affected and how many people are not aware of it. Aside from the clear infrastructural damage in the communities they visited, the looming issue is the utter devastation of all farmlands, which 99% of residents rely on for income and food security.