Hurricane Matthew relief effort in Haiti enters new phase
An international relief effort for victims of Hurricane Matthew entered a more advanced stage Thursday as a second U.S. military ship arrived off the coast and U.N. convoys and nongovernment organizations began reaching more isolated communities.
Food, clean water and construction materials have begun pouring into the southwestern peninsula, though many people there still say they’ve seen little or no aid.
Those working to send everything from water purification systems to building materials say the scope of the damage from Matthew and the difficulty reaching people create logistical challenges similar to those faced after the devastating earthquake that struck the crowded capital and surrounding areas in January 2010. But while the death toll from last week’s storm is in the hundreds, the Haitian government has said the earthquake killed more than 300,000.
“There’s just so much to do, not to make it more than the earthquake, but it’s so widespread, it’s everything across the board,” said Chris Bessey, the country representative for Catholic Relief Services.
The Haitian government says more than 1.4 million people urgently need humanitarian assistance. The official death toll is 473, though local officials have reported figures suggesting it will eventually be higher, and the homes of more than 120,000 families were damaged or destroyed. Many people across the ruggedly scenic peninsula have watched passing aid trucks in growing frustration.
“I’m looking at my life and I don’t know what to do. It seems like somebody is getting help but it is not us,” said Watson Hypolite, a 66-year-old in the badlyhit Grande Anse district of Beaumont as trucks with the logos of the U.N. and International Organization for Migration, guarded by peacekeepers, passed him on a mountainous gravel road.
But amid the challenges, the relief effort has risen visibly in recent days. Teams from the Haitian Red Cross and Civil Protection agency have fanned out across the peninsula and large convoys from the U.N. and the migration agency are seen more throughout the disaster zone. On Wednesday, the U.S. military made 13 helicopter flights to hard-toreach areas with 159 metric tons of food supplies, the U.S. Agency for International Development said.
David Harden, head of humanitarian assistance for the USAID, said the Hurricane Matthew relief effort was akin to the situation faced during other major disasters such as the Nepal earthquake in April 2015 or the Philippines typhoon in November 2013, both of which also had much higher death tolls.
“What complicates it is logistics, remote areas, hard-hit areas, and a lack of capacity,” Harden said. “These are poor countries, that’s why it’s tougher there than in Miami.”
U.S. military troops load bags of rice for Hurricane Matthew relief into a helicopter at the airport in Port-auPrince, Haiti, Thursday. The U.N. humanitarian agency in Geneva has made an emergency appeal for nearly $120 million in aid, saying that about three-quarters of a million people in southwest Haiti alone will need “life-saving assistance and protection” in the next three months.
Dumanoir Poison harvests rice from his flooded field in hopes of salvaging a small fraction of his spoiled crop, near Les Cayes, Haiti, Wednesday. Hurricane Matthew’s winds uprooted coconut trees, shattered banana plantations and flattened vegetable fields across the southwest. In some coastal towns, flooding even carried away livestock.