by Sebastian Africano, International Director of Trees, Water & People
For the last week I’ve been pondering the severity of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction in the Caribbean, a region in which I’ve spent a lot of time, and where I’ve worked with dozens of chronically vulnerable communities. While Matthew made landfall on the south coast of Haiti, which is what most are seeing in the news, I had not seen one mention of the conditions on Haiti’s northern peninsula, the region in which TWP has worked since 2007 with partners at AMURT and LOCAL.
Today I received the first news from the communities with which we’ve worked, and it’s not good (see below). As such, Trees, Water & People will be raising funds for the relief effort in the Northwest, and for continued stabilization of the hillsides with trees, shrubs, and grasses. 100% of funds raised will go to the recovery and reconstruction effort. Here is an email from our colleagues at AMURT, who just conducted a 3-day visit to the region:
Even before Hurricane Matthew, the northwest of Haiti was designated as an extreme vulnerability zone as a result of the 3-year drought – the farming and environment of the entire area has been devastated and has led to an increase of migration, the spread of cholera, and shrinking of livelihoods. The passing of Matthew along the NW of Haiti has devastated all coastal communities which rely on fishing, salt production, and subsistence farming. The photos show the extensive damage done to houses, but the damage extends inland – most of the irrigation canals have been destroyed, farms wiped out, livestock lost, salt basins submerged in mud, trees uprooted. Polluted water sources and very poor sanitation raise the danger of the expansion of the cholera epidemic which still plagues the region.
Hurricane Matthew has increased the vulnerability of this already impoverished and isolated corner of Haiti to a new level, which is exacerbated by the complete lack of basic services. The real crisis will deepen week by week as the sparse stocks of seeds and supplies begin running out. With the primary sources of livelihoods (in particular salt production and farming) severely impacted, those most vulnerable have lost the only source of meager income that has helped them meet their basic food needs. The situation is critical and requires an immediate response which is integrated, durable and targeting the most vulnerable populations.
- 280 houses completely destroyed, 640 houses inundated and damaged, 720 houses severely damaged, five schools severely damaged.
- 90% of salt basins severely impacted/destroyed.
- Majority of farming land and irrigation severely impacted from the mountains to the coast.
- Majority of road severely impacted, access to most inland areas very difficult.
First phase – emergency food, water, sanitation, medical and emergency kits, temporary shelter, child-friendly spaces, cash for work to clear debris and repair roads and salt basins.
Second phase – Livelihood creation, cash for work to protect watersheds and coastal areas, construction of permanent shelter, school reconstruction.
Program Focus of AMURT during the first 3-month period
- Emergency food distribution (dry rations) and hot meal canteens for vulnerable groups (children under 5, elderly, pregnant women and handicapped) – a total of 2,500 beneficiaries in 5 coastal communities
- Distribution of Non-Food Items (NFI) and emergency shelter kits until more extensive reconstruction can be planned
- Water and sanitation – treated drinking water stations, latrines, sanitation education
- Emergency Child-Friendly Spaces – daily hot meals and psycho-social and arts programs for children
- Cash for Work program to repair roads, damaged areas, salt basins
- Assistance to re-build the damaged fishing, salt production, and farming (tools, seeds, accompaniment)
Trees, Water & People has planted almost 500,000 trees in northern Haiti with our partners, and with any luck, they lessened the damage downhill of where they were planted. All funds raised by TWP will be used for the priorities listed above, and any remaining after the initial response will go toward rebuilding tree nurseries and replanting the contour channels and check dams that reduce erosion and mudslide risk. This is a desperately isolated region, which is why we worked here in the first place – let’s not let it be forgotten as the country recovers from yet another devastating natural disaster.