By: Dr. Kelly Crowdis, CVM Field Staff serving in Haiti
The only news in Haiti right now is Hurricane Matthew. On October 2 and 3 the radar showed that Matthew was coming, no one said much, another cyclone, no big deal. However, Matthew was a category 4 storm with 175 mile an hour winds. All of the missionary community started to warn people and no one believed us. We have hurricanes all the time and nothing much happens. We haven’t had a category 4 storm hit Haiti since 1963 and people forget.
I think I know how the prophets felt when they were telling the people of God’s judgement coming if they didn’t change their ways. I went around in my truck telling everyone not to sleep in their tin roofed houses and to take shelter in a concrete house. The sun was shining and people looked at me like I was crazy.
I called everyone I knew in the South and Southwest and begged them to go tell others because the government was slow in announcing the storm. A few listened – one man I work with actually got on his motorcycle and rode 4 hours down the beach with a megaphone announcing the storm coming. He saved hundreds of lives because that is where the storm hit the hardest.
Matthew moved oh so slow and pounded the South and Southwestern peninsula of Haiti. It is like a war zone. It is Katrina, Andrew or Camille for those of you familiar with major US hurricanes. The little houses made of wood, mud and sticks didn’t hold up. Even some concrete houses on the beach are gone. Every house without a concrete roof is gone.
Houses can be rebuilt but what is even more horrible is the loss of crops and trees. Many in the South used their fruit trees to make a living. It is going to take years for them to start reproducing again. I often say there aren’t words to describe something that happens here in Haiti and for this there aren’t. It’s catastrophic, cataclysmic, devastating and whatever other adjective you can think of to describe destruction. It is worse than the earthquake in so many ways. There wasn’t the massive loss of life, although over 1000 died due to the storm and cholera outbreaks. But the loss of crops and trees is going to create famine in parts of Haiti and affect the entire country’s food security which is already fragile because of three years of drought.
It’s another new normal for the country and one it didn’t need.
When infrastructure is fragile a major natural disaster compounds the problems. The people of Haiti need help and prayer. They are resilient and will rebuild given the chance, but everything they have is gone. Even 12 days after the storm people are still without even a tarp to cover their heads. It isn’t easy for aid to reach the countryside because the roads just aren’t there. Giving them a hand to rebuild is what they want.
CVM is working to provide clean water with other partners and tarps. Our main focus will be on providing seeds and livestock to replace what was lost and so farmers can replant. They don’t want to move to the city and if we help they won’t have to.
I can’t yet really articulate how hard this has hit me, the communities that I teach veterinary agents in and places I have friends. My heart is broken. This is not a problem that is going to go away tomorrow, this is a decade long journey for recovery.
We are still doing our vet tech training and distributing livestock, mostly goats and chickens, will be our focus for the near future. We are not just going to replace the livestock we are going to train, give improved stock and rebuild Haiti better and stronger than before! Please pray for Haiti like never before, she needs it desperately!
CVM has a plan for immediate, short-term and long-term goals. Working with local organizations and ministries we are providing immediate needs of clean water, food and shelter. We are also continuing to provide seeds, plants and livestock to help people regain their livelihoods.
We are striving to not just simply give something, but to also provide training, improved seeds and breeds to Haitians in order to help rebuild their country to be even better than before the hurricane.