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Oxfam plans a 6-to-12 month response to help Haiti recover from Hurricane Matthew

By Oxfam
Ivrose Bélizaire and her family lost all their animals and their corn crop when Hurricane Matthew battered their community in Haiti. Now, she is concerned about how her family will recover all that the storm has taken. Photo by Fran Afonso

Working with local mayors and civil society groups, Oxfam distributes emergency supplies to needy families.

With the devastation from Hurricane Matthew now clear, Oxfam aims to raise $6 million to help families in Haiti recover from the October storm that ripped the roofs off their houses, destroyed their crops, and severely damaged their water supply systems. We plan to work in three geographic areas: the southern peninsula in the departments of Grande-Anse and Sud; Cité-Soleil, a crowded municipality near the capital; and in Anse-Rouge, in the Artibonite Department.

Many people, like 32-year-old Ivrose Bélizaire who lives with her family in Cavaillon, in the South department, are wondering how they will restore all that they lost. Gone are the family’s kitchen, their garden, and all their animals (their goats, sheep, cows, and only horse). Also destroyed by the storm was their corn crop, in which they invested a good deal of money, and their sweet potatoes.

“The problem is that we don’t have any seeds, and the land we have behind our house is destroyed. The seeds have disappeared,” said Bélizaire, who worries about getting enough food for her family to live on. “There were already problems with food in Haiti but this hurricane means that hunger will be multiplied by a thousand. Ninety percent of people in Cavaillon and the region live off what they grow, and now all that is gone.”

Working with local partners, Oxfam is planning a six-to-twelve-month response to help people survive these first trying months and then focus on recovering their means of earning a living and rebuilding some of the basic infrastructure in their communities.

Even before the storm slammed into the island with heavy rain and winds gusting up to 165 miles per hour, only 62 percent of Haitians had access to improved water sources. In the first assessments done after the hurricane, the national water authority found that 90 percent of the water networks in the South had been damaged, increasing the chance that people would have to drink untreated water with its risk of cholera. In fact, cholera has spiked in some places: the Ministry of Health reported 166 suspected cases and three deaths in the department of Grande-Anse in the days after the storm.

Bélizaire and her family have been worrying about that, too.

 “Cholera hit Haiti hard before,” she said, noting that it was present in her region, too, before the storm. “We take many precautions to avoid falling ill from the disease. We look for clean wells that are not contaminated. And we also use water purification tablets. Yes, there was a lot of it, but now I think it will increase. Not yet, it takes a little while, but it will increase.”

Educating people about the dangers of the disease and how to avoid it can be challenging, not the least because the hurricane knocked down a host of antennas belonging to radio and cellular companies, and the TVs, phones, and radios of many people were also damaged. Oxfam has been assessing the country’s broadcasting capacity and plans to distribute 500 small radios so key public health messages can be shared over the airwaves. That messaging on prevention is more important than ever as 75 percent of cholera treatment centers in two of country’s southern departments were destroyed.

Oxfam’s response

Since the beginning of the crisis, Oxfam has worked closely with the offices of local mayors and with civil society organizations to deliver emergency goods to families. Three days after the storm blew through, we began distributing some of those essentials. We provided people with water treatment products, hygiene kits, tools for clearing debris, and blankets from our contingency stocks in Port-au-Prince, the capital.  

Through its strong community roots, Oxfam was also able to bring together a variety of international organizations and Haiti’s private sector to make a delivery of food and shelter materials aboard a couple of barges. The boats brought the goods to the country’s southwest coast where they have benefitted hundreds families between Tiburon and Chardonnières.

As part of the emergency response, our teams were able to help with:

  • Water trucking and the installation of water bladders to ensure people have access to a clean, safe supply
  • Distribution of water purification tablets, hygiene kits, and shelter materials
  • Distribution of food parcels and WFP rations
  • Cholera prevention efforts

And now that people are beginning to meet their basic needs, our response will gradually shift to the longer-term recovery. The assistance we provide will include:

  • Potable water in schools and in communities;
  • Cash-for-work initiatives that will engage local people in the clean-up and provide them a source of income;
  • Small grants to boost small businesses;
  • Facilitating access to credit for traders, small-scale farmers, and fishermen.

Help us meet the most critical needs, and begin to aid in the long-term recovery of people in Haiti and the Carribean.

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