A Silent Death Blow: Matthew’s Effect on Haiti

By: Kara Haselton

Hurricane Matthew swept through the Caribbean and the United States almost four weeks ago. Matthew became a category 4 hurricane before it made landfall and it affected people in Cuba, Haiti, up to the southeastern part of the U.S. While the “afterMatthew” has died down for at least those in Raleigh, Haiti’s problems are still there.

Haiti’s problems have been there.

The earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 was immediately on every news website and one could hear of the event nearly everywhere. The small island of Haiti was completely devastated by the effects of the earthquake; the economy fell, but infrastructures fell faster still. Aid agencies answered quickly to the need and money was collected.

Six years later, Haiti has been hit again.  

Haiti stood no chance against the 145 mph winds of Hurricane Matthew. The poorly rebuilt homes and temporary housing were easily flattened by the storm. After the six years of hard work to rebuild the economy and living situation, it crashed again. “Haiti — one of the world’s poorest countries — has never fully recovered from the earthquake in 2010 that killed thousands of people and a cholera epidemic that followed,” BBC reported in an article published right after the storm hit Haiti.

The death toll was already at 877, three days after the storm hit. By now, over 900 people have died, and the death toll is expected to continue to rise. The south, specifically the southwest Tiburon peninsula was hit the hardest, with some towns amounting to nothing. The BBC also reported that nearly 90% of Haiti was destroyed. Additionally, the United Nations has estimated a near 1.4 million people in need of assistance, with the most significantly affected areas being nearly inaccessible.

Connor Shapiro and Lynn Black on behalf of Time magazine reported that Haiti, specifically the city of Les Anglais, has “a depleted medication supply and no material to care for the traumatic wounds. Unattended wounds had been festering for days. A massive cholera outbreak was also imminent: Les Anglais had already had 24 cases in the first five days.”

Cholera is a bacterial disease usually contracted after contact with dirty, infected water. In the situation in Haiti, it’s suspected that the flood water is mixing with sewage and contaminating the little food available, causing developing cholera to be a near guarantee.

Black, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Shapiro noted that they were the first aid responders in the town of Les Anglais, and that was five days after the storm had passed. By then, many disease and wound-afflicted civilians had been suffering for several days, increasing their risk of serious injury or death. In addition to their sad stories, the article featured on Time also reported that out of 4,000 homes, only 82 were still intact. That means a measly 2% of their homes are still standing.  

The UN has asked for $120 million for aid and relief to go to Haiti, however they have only received 12% of that.

But the question is, why is so easy to forget about Haiti? There are probably many factors as to why it was taking Haiti so long to rebuild after 2010, but one of them is probably the fact that we forgot. We stopped sending aid. We stopped going on house building trips.

It’s only been two weeks since Haiti was hit, and we’ve already forgotten about them. The article from Time magazine put it like this, “Is it our obsession with our own national politics here in the U.S.? Is it our lack of ability to turn statistics on the evening news into the stories of real suffering people? Are people losing faith in our ability to effectively respond to disasters in Haiti? Are we tired of hearing about the struggles of this small island? Regardless of the real reasons, shame on us for not shining a brighter light on the devastation caused by this powerful storm and for not stepping up to help our neighbors, 90 minutes by air from Miami, recover and turn toward rebuilding. If not us, then who?”

The situation needs to be recognized and pulled out from under the rug. But what doesn’t need to happen is for us to shake our head in horror and cry over these ‘poor, unfortunate souls.’ Instead, let’s talk about solutions. Because there are solutions.

Starting out small, Project Wisdom is hosting Stop Hunger Now on November 13th; people come together and package over 40,000 meals to send to those in need. This specific event will be sending everything to Haiti.

But there are so many organizations you could contribute to. Don’t let your own experience with Hurricane Matthew drown out their experience. They are humans, too.