Media CenterCRS Providing Critical Relief in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew as Death Toll Climbs
While the death toll in Haiti continues to rise as aid officials reach previously cut-off towns and villages, CRS is distributing blankets and hygiene kits to hundreds of people left homeless by Hurricane Matthew.
So far, more than 900 deaths have been reported after the Category 4 storm bore down on Haiti on Oct. 4. Thousands have sought shelter in public school buildings, where CRS is now working to provide relief, including basic items like diapers, towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes.
CRS’ Robyn Fieser, on the ground in Les Cayes, says while the need for assistance is great, people are trying to get back to normal. “The streets are filled with clothes and mattresses as people are trying to dry out their lives,” she reports. “Every other tree is down and many homes have been destroyed. Thousands are holed up in shelters without even basic necessities, while those who stayed in their homes are trying to get back to their lives.”
In the coming days, CRS will add critical shelter materials to its distributions, as many families are left in the open after their homes were completely destroyed by the storm. Many others were damaged.
“What people really need is food and water. And they want to get home and start repairing what’s left of their homes. They need supplies,” Fieser reports.
Water from Matthew’s heavy rainfall and wind-driven storm surge was over three feet deep in many parts of the town, flooding into homes. People are now beginning to return to markets in search of food and trying to dry clothing and other household items even as the rainfall continues, Fieser says.
In Jeremie, a nearby town of 30,000 on the northern side of the peninsula that is southwest Haiti, almost everyone is said to be without water and also facing widespread destruction and no communications.
“There are still many areas that haven’t been reached yet,” Fieser says. “They’re hard to reach in normal times but with so much destruction and poor infrastructure, getting supplies to them will be no small task in the coming days and weeks.”
There’s also a fear of widespread crop loss and food stocks, not just in Les Cayes – and important bread basket for Haiti - but also in the mountains around Port-au-Prince, where the storm caused heavy winds.
Damage to crops and the loss of stored food mean that prices may spike in the short-term while the impact of this hurricane could affect the food supply of the region, and the
entire country, for years to come.
While dozens of CRS staff, already on the ground when the storm hit, have been working to address critical needs, additional teams have been sent to Haiti to support the response, which will include the distributions of temporary shelter materials, like tarps.
“When we started our distribution, one man walked up to me and showed me a photo album of his family,” Fieser says. “People here have been through a lot but they’re resilient.”
CRS has worked in Haiti since 1954, responding to Hurricane Hazel. In 2010, CRS responded to the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake the struck in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000.