Devastation in Haiti: Relief Efforts Underway

Publication Date: 
October 14, 2016

Haiti -- an already-fragile nation still working to rebuild after a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 -- has suffered another devastating blow: a Category 4 hurricane that has killed hundreds of people, with thousands more still at risk. Salesian missionaries on the ground have launched direct relief efforts but the need is vast.

“It is a real catastrophe,” says Father Hubert Mesidor, a Salesian missionary serving in the Vice-Province of Haiti. “The destruction reminds us of the 2010 earthquake. And there is a real fear of a resurgence of the cholera epidemic.”

Slamming into the southern part of the island on October 4 with wind speeds of up to 145 miles per hour, Hurricane Matthew ripped tin roofs from the fragile makeshift shelters in which tens of thousands of people had been living since the earthquake. Vulnerable to the storm’s fury, more than 1,000 people are confirmed dead. Roads and bridges collapsed, and communications systems failed -- stranding victims from critical aid. The storm surge flooded entire farmlands, destroying up to 80 percent of food crops and killing significant numbers of livestock. Mudslides have clogged wells and sanitation systems, and the cholera that Fr. Hubert feared has already killed 13 people and sickened an additional 62. More than 50,000 people are now homeless, with food and safe drinking water desperately scarce.

“What we need right now to help the people of Haiti is immediate funding,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “This is the fastest way to ensure that desperately needed relief supplies -- food, clean water, medical assistance, and more -- reach as many people as possible.”

Once the immediate danger from the storm passed, and the Haitian government cleared them to do so, our Salesian missionaries on the ground launched such direct relief efforts. And, because of the leadership role these missionaries assumed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, they are well positioned to make an immediate impact. With schools and programs throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- including Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap Haïtien, Les Cayes, and Grassier -- the response has been efficient and comprehensive.

“Locals trust us, and know we are a dependable presence to whom they can turn in times of emergency,” says Fr. Mark. “And the fact that we have already-established infrastructure and logistical capabilities -- like storage warehouses, transportation vehicles, and distribution channels -- as well as a unique knowledge of how to get things done locally, means that we can respond quickly and effectively.”

To assist these efforts, Salesian Missions has established a dedicated emergency relief fund for Haiti. All donations to the fund will support our missionaries’ immediate humanitarian relief efforts, as well as longer-term recovery and reconstruction projects. Currently, the highest priorities include purchasing and distributing clean water; rice, beans, and cooking oil; and sheet metal and wood for repairing damaged shelters and homes.

Already, missionaries in Les Cayes have distributed more than 400 kits including these items to local families. And, in areas where Salesian schools were undamaged, missionaries hope to provide warm meals to as many as 3,000 children a day. But the needs remain vast.

“Our hearts break for the people of Haiti, who are so beloved by our missionaries there,” says Fr. Mark. “We will do whatever we can to help them survive yet another devastating event, and rise up stronger, and more resilient, than before.”

To make a gift in support of these efforts, please do so here.

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