Crisis in Haiti: Hurricane Matthew

The U.S. National Hurricane Center called it the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007. The 12-day weather event, named “Hurricane Matthew” ravaged the Caribbean and moved north along the Atlantic seaboard, growing into a powerful Category 5 storm. It moved through the Caribbean region with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, devastating areas of the Caribbean and the U.S. Carolina coast before finally withering away.

The contrast of the impact of the hurricane on the Caribbean and the U.S. coastline couldn’t have been more apparent. All of the deaths caused by this weather event was tragic, but the difference shows how infrastructure and organization can play a key factor in survivability.

By the time the hurricane had dissipated, there were over 1,100 deaths. 97% of those deaths occurred in the Caribbean – Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Colombia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. But, by far, Haiti suffered the worst of the Caribbean countries – with over 1,000 of these deaths occurring there at the hands of the hurricane. It shows just how vulnerable these areas are to disasters, when infrastructure and civil support are lacking.

Haiti is an impoverished nation that occupies the western half of the island of Hispaniola along with the Dominican Republic. The poorest of the two countries, Haiti has lacked the government and physical infrastructure in the recent past to manage the natural disasters that it has faced – hurricanes and earthquakes. Each disaster adds to the accumulating damage that the country and its people face.

When devastating incidents occur like hurricanes, the people of Haiti are thrown further into inhumane and unsustainable living conditions. Water runs down village streets, sweeping materials and humans before it. Fragile infrastructures, such as electricity and clean water are disrupted. Trees were felled by the high winds, blocking relief access — when relief is even available in this poorest of the regions.

Water@Work Ministry has been working to build clean water infrastructure in the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic (DR) for over 4 years. Similar physical stressors put health conditions for local DR populations at risk. But, with the strong support of the DR government, Water@Work has been able to accomplish much.
But, Water@Work can’t turn a blind eye to the devastation just across the border. And for the second time in the last couple of years, Water@Work Ministry has partnered with Foundation for Peace to rush mobile water purifier equipment across the border to help stabilize the situation, as much as possible.

Since the hurricane hit the island earlier this month, Water@Work team member Brandon Harper, a water specialist, along with the support of the ministry’s founder, Tom Flaim, and the Director of Operations, Dan Blevins, have jumped into action. Within days of the storm, Brandon was volunteering his time to fly down to the region to help mobilize the Water@Work water purification equipment and get it where it can provide critically need, clean water.

The work continues. And the needs are great. But, with your prayers and the tireless work of all of those in the devastated region, like Brandon, people will be helped.