Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on the morning of October 4th, and although the government of Haiti and humanitarian partners are still working to understand the extent of the damage, this category 4 hurricane was the strongest storm to hit the island in more than 30 years. Strong winds at approximately 140 miles per hour and torrential rain caused mudslides and extensive damage, especially in coastal areas. According to the Haitian government, an estimated 350,000 people affected by the hurricane are in need of assistance. The government of Haiti has issued a red alert and officially requested the assistance of the United Nations as well as the assistance of humanitarian organizations.
Action Against Hunger has been working in Haiti for 30 years to help communities fight hunger: our existing programs and expert teams on the ground allowed us to respond in the first 24 hours of the disaster.
Our emergency staff was mobilized immediately—and we are now conducting rapid assessments in targeted areas to determine people’s most urgent humanitarian needs, with a particular focus on assessing needs for water and sanitation, given the significant health risks associated with heavy rains and floodwaters that can contaminate water sources and contribute to deadly waterborne diseases such as cholera.
Assessing the Damage
We have launched rapid needs assessments in Artibonite and northwest Haiti, where we have existing programs. Our Haiti team is also on standby to respond in southern Haiti, which was worst affected. To support the efforts of our Haiti country team and government partners, we have also mobilized an expert rapid response team from our office in Paris.
Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Haiti, Esclatine Antoine, said, “In northwest Haiti and in Artibonite, many already vulnerable families lost their homes. We estimate that at least 20,000 people were affected in the community of Bombardopolis alone. We are in the process of assessing needs so that we can meet people’s most urgent needs rapidly.”
Immediate Priorities: Safe Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation
Access to safe water is reportedly in short supply in areas affected by the hurricane. Interventions to ensure hygiene and adequate sanitation are also urgently needed, especially in Haiti, which has suffered from deadly cholera outbreaks in the past, particularly in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.
Action Against Hunger has existing cholera prevention programs and initiatives to improve sanitation and access to safe water in northwest Haiti and in Artibonite. We will strengthen our cholera prevention programs, and scale up our water and sanitation interventions as needed. To prepare for the impact of the hurricane, our emergency teams pre-positioned stocks of “emergency hygiene kits.” In the coming days, we will distribute emergency hygiene kits, safe water, and we will intervene to improve sanitation and prevent waterborne diseases in communities in the Northwest and in Artibonite.
As we gather more data from our rapid assessments, our teams will work with the government of Haiti and humanitarian partners to meet the urgent survival needs of people affected by this crisis. We are committed to helping the Haitian people recover from this disaster, today and in the long term.
Action Against Hunger in Haiti
Present in Bombardopolis, Gonaives and Port-de-Paix, our programs deliver vital family nutrition and health services, and rehabilitate water points to provide people with daily access to clean drinking water. Our wide-reaching public awareness campaigns share the importance of adequate hygiene and care practices and reduce the risk of future cholera outbreaks. We also work in collaboration with the Haitian government to improve health systems.
Last year, our programs in Haiti reached 440,266 people.