Progress visible after hurricane in Haiti

January 31, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Andrew McConnell

It’s been four months since Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and, with your support, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with communities to rebuild. Find out what we’ve been up to, from roads to bakeries to gabion walls.

Nearly four months ago, Hurricane Matthew tore through Haiti, devastating the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. The storm destroyed homes, livelihoods, and infrastructure, leaving more than 10% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.

The situation remains dire in Haiti: more than 800,000 urgently need food assistance, almost 150,000 are still displaced, and the damage to the agricultural sector is estimated at over $500 million.

80% of La Gonâve’s infrastructure was damaged by Hurricane Matthew’s punishing rains.

Concern Worldwide has been working in Haiti since 1994 and continues to support Haitian communities as they rebuild and recover from Hurricane Matthew. While most of the damage from the storm was concentrated in the southern and northern regions of the country, many other regions were also hit hard. Among those was Haiti’s largest island of La Gonâve, just off the coast of Port-au-Prince, where over 20% of the population was severely affected by the hurricane.

Destroyed structures on La Gonâve, Haiti.

The remote area of Latanye on the island of La Gonâve was completely flooded after Hurricane Matthew. Nearly 25% of the homes were partially or completely destroyed. Photo: Kristin Myers

Already one of the Haiti’s poorest areas, La Gonâve suffered heavy losses to agriculture and livestock, as well as destruction of sanitation infrastructure and agricultural and fishing equipment. With means of food production damaged and markets unable to function, food prices on the island have increased. Many people are unable to afford food, and even those that can afford food face difficulties accessing it, as 80% of La Gonâve’s infrastructure was damaged by Hurricane Matthew’s punishing rains.

Concern’s response

Concern has assisted over 8,000 people through seven distributions, providing them with essential items like hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerry cans, and tents. After the storm destroyed sanitation facilities like toilets and left behind stagnant water, cholera quickly became a concern. Concern has supplied water purification tablets to ensure people have access to safe drinking water and educated residents on cholera prevention. Though cholera swept through the country’s southern peninsula after the hurricane, Concern has recorded zero cases of the deadly disease on La Gonâve since Matthew.

Through a cash-for-work program, Concern worked with residents to rebuild almost 4,000 feet of road.

To help the hundreds of families whose homes were swept away in the rain and flood waters, Concern has distributed nearly 500 shelter repair kits. Recipients not only received tools but also support and training to build better, more resilient homes.

Cash-for-work

The rehabilitation of over a mile of strategic roads on La Gonâve has been a critical step in the recovery process. Through a cash-for-work program, Concern worked with residents to rebuild almost 4,000 feet of road that connects Anse-à-Galets and Points-à-Raquettes, the two main towns on La Gonâve. Another stretch of road was rehabilitated between Anse-à-Galets and Palma, which is vital for those who rely on it to reach the main market in Palma.

More than 250 of the island’s poorest and most vulnerable families households participated in the program over approximately two weeks, and the vital cash injections helped families purchase food and cover basic needs.

Road construction

Road rehabilitation on La Gonâve through a cash-for-work program. More than a mile of critical roads were rebuilt. Photo: Patrick André

An urban focus

Concern is transitioning its programming in Haiti to focus on urban growth and redevelopment. Partnering with Catholic Relief Services, Concern has implemented a multi-year program in Grand Ravine — a large slum in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince — that builds not only critical infrastructure but also the livelihoods and resilience of the families who live there.

Concern is also continuing its work in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s most dangerous and impoverished slum.

Sitting along the edges of a gorge carved out of steeply sloping hills, Grand Ravine is highly susceptible to flooding and landslides during the rainy season, which can have devastating effects on its 20,000 extremely vulnerable and poor residents.

Construction of drainage canals, retaining walls, and gabion walls for erosion protection has already begun. This infrastructure will provide much-needed protection against flooding. Twelve homes are being built as part of the program, each of which will accommodate four families. Job opportunities have also been created — for example, a cooperative of vulnerable mothers have been trained in nutrition and baking, and the team now works at a Concern-run bakery and participate in a savings program.

Construction of a wall

Construction of a retaining wall in Grand Ravine as part of Concern’s Integrated Reconstruction and Redevelopment Programme. Photo: Kristin Myers

Concern is also continuing its work in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s most dangerous and impoverished slum. Cité Soleil’s residents have long struggled with gang violence and a lack of access to safe drinking water, toilets, and electricity. Concern has previously conducted an emergency response in the slum after heavy rains inundated the area’s canals, flooding homes with rainwater contaminated with trash and human waste. Working with more than 35,000 residents, Concern is engaging the local community to dialogue with local and national authorities to improve social cohesion and offer investment opportunities for poor households.

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