AMURT and AMURTEL have begun immediate relief efforts in Haiti in response to the devastation from Hurricane Matthew. Here is an update and an appeal for help.
All the children and staff at our Children’s home were evacuated to our school in Delmas from our center in Port au Prince the day before the storm hit, (no easy feat!). We were especially concerned for our center/school/children’s home, worrying the retaining walls would not hold up and we would lose everything to the force of the river. We monitored the storm all day, and were able to stay in touch with teams around the country via skype and whatsapp. The hurricane ended up bearing more west than initially predicted, sparing Port au Prince from being flattened. There was localized flooding, loss of homes and a number of bridges were washed out, but our center was still standing when the storm moved on. All our kids and staff, have returned and the school is open. The school in Delmas also came through the storm unscathed. Our team in the Southeast experienced tremendous amounts of rain and some flooding, but our school and all the programs are safe.
Unfortunately other parts of Haiti were not so fortunate. In the southwest, many villages have been devastated. The town of Jeremie in particular was hit hard. In a recent report from a pilot doing a fly over he states: “Jeremie, it’s wiped out. Barely 1 percent of houses are standing. The people are alive … they survived. But soon, they may starve. They’re cutoff.” He went on to say here are some villages where they still haven’t been able to hear from a single person. We have sent in a small team to do an assessment in the southwest and will follow up with aid.
The Anse Rouge district in the northwest was badly affected as well. Here is an excerpt from a recent report sent by one of our country coordinators, Demeter Russafov:
“This is a quick update on the situation in Commune Anse Rouge, where AMURT’s projects focus on and which Mathew has impacted quite heavily judging from the information we have began receiving from our team and local authorities. We are due to receive more detailed surveys by the end of the day, which I will sent to you. We have been lucky to have a large team (almost 70 staff) in the field right now due to the WFP/USAID Cash for Work initiative, and have mobilized them all to go village to village and quickly assess the damage.
The heaviest impact has been felt in the coastal villages which have been battered by 10′ high waves and 75 kmh winds, destroying houses and roads. The main connection between Gonaives to the south and Anse Rouge has been cut off. The % of houses damaged moderately to severely will be revealed in the survey, but it is already clear that the heaviest impacted areas have been Anse Rouge, Coridon, Point des Mangles, and Gran Savan. Many salt basins have been destroyed, and salt harvests already collected lost. Fishing boats and equipment have been destroyed in virtually all the coastal villages. The extent of the damage reaches the mountainous areas all the way up to Commune Terre Neuve, with reports coming of farms and roads washed off and livestock lost. We have not received news of lives lost, perhaps due to the frequent public messages in advance of this slow moving Hurricane. As of today heavy rains continue, the dry rivers in the area have cut off connections between villages, making thorough assessment in the entire Commune more difficult at this point.
The main type of assistance which we can foresee being most useful is unconditional cash vouchers to support families in shelters and those most vulnerable, house reconstruction/construction, livelihoods assistance (primarily fishing and salt livelihoods), and seeds/tools. We will be meeting with our traditional partners here in Haiti and will let you know what kind of emergency programs will be activated here in Haiti. I will be present at the National Emergency Coordination meetings in Port-au-Prince and will share all relevant information as well”.
A big concern now is to make sure that people get safe drinking water and safe water for washing as the threat of a major cholera outbreak is very real. The doctors in Haiti are saying “though the storm has passed, experience tells us that the worst is yet to come.”
If you would like to help our relief efforts for the people in Haiti by making a tax- deductible donation, you can go online to our websites: www.amurtel.org or www.amurt.net and go to the donation page, or you can mail a check to Amurtel, PO Box 232, Warren, VT 05674 or Amurt, 2502 Lindley Terrace, Rockville MD 20850.
Thanks much to everyone.
Steve Landau MD
President, AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team)