Hurricane Irma: Wading through the aftermath
Hurricane Irma passed north of Haiti on the evening of September 7th, bringing with it strong winds and rains to the northern half of the country. Although Haiti was spared the widespread destruction seen on other Caribbean islands, significant damage is being reported in rural communities in the Artibonite, where MCC’s Desarmes office is located.
MCC Haiti Representative Paul Shetler Fast traveled, along with team members, to the region on the September 8th to assess the situation.
“While the headlines from the hurricane reported the big story, that [Hurricane Irma] was less destructive than feared, many communities, even deep in the interior of Haiti, experienced flash floods, heavy winds, and loss of homes and livelihoods,” he explained.
The Artibonite watershed received the largest concentration of rain from Hurricane Irma, funneling much of the rainfall into dry riverbeds. This resulted in flash flooding that damaged homes and destroyed gardens that residents of communities like Otovan, in the Lachappelle commune, rely on for income to send their children to school, or buy seeds for the next planting season.
Many of the small communities that MCC works with here are remote, accessible only on foot, and often overlooked as post-hurricane relief efforts are concentrated in coastal areas. MCC staff in Haiti conducted an assessment of the storms’ damage in the Artibonite one day after Hurricane Irma and will conduct a rapid response providing 90 hard hit families in the community of Lachappelle with relief buckets, water treatment tablets and comforters less than 48 hours after the storm passes.
“Without going to these communities in person, wading through those rivers and talking to people face to face, you wouldn’t hear their stories, and we wouldn’t be able to help” says Shetler Fast.