Here is the initial assessment of the damage on La Gonave after Hurricane Matthew, compiled by the island’s government representatives. One version is in Creole and one is in English. A final assessment has not yet been completed because some locations have been hard to reach, but it is clear from the initial report that the damage is already extensive. Over 1,000 homes destroyed and another 6,000 damaged. Our estimate is that over a third of the island’s infrastructure has been impacted.
1. Wait for the Needs– Wait for formal assessments from the government and from local organizations with already established relationships on the ground.
2. Work Within the System– Work under the direction of local government officials and/or with organizations that understand the needs and already have systems in place on the ground.
3. Raise or Give Cash and Give Locally- Funds (instead of goods) can get to those in need faster and more cheaply, and can always respond to the greatest need of the moment. Collected goods can be costly to transport, not fulfill a specific need, prevent needed goods from getting where they need to go, and undermine the local economy.
4. Few Volunteer Opportunities– Like unsolicited collected goods, untrained volunteers can clog the system and undermine the work of established relief organizations. If you do fit (can fill) a need, make sure you are wanted, your arrival is known beforehand, and that the logistics surrounding your trip are worked out in advance (i.e. transportation, lodging, and access to food/water).
5. Don’t Work Alone– Try to combine forces with other groups wanting to help in order to avoid duplicating efforts or overwhelming those on the ground.
BEST THING YOU CAN DO?
Raise funds and foster community awareness of established organizations!
After reaching out to several on-the-ground contacts we have worked with in the past, we were able to connect to staff at Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organization with headquarters in Ireland. Engineer Chaungo Barasa, Concern Haiti’s WASH Programme Coordinator, met with members of our local partner APDAG to visit the water facility and assess the damage.
After evaluating and testing the current state of the spring source (reservoir), the piping, the collection tank and faucets, he reported the following:
- The delivery pipe which carries water downstream from the source to the collection tank was broken into two, hence interrupting the supply
- The existing retaining wall, 2-2.5m high (6.5-8.5ft), was breached by the storm waters, which caused flooding in and around the source, its protective shelter, and the collection tank
- The retaining wall, however, is intact
- The shelter around the source was eroded by the descending currents of water, allowing storm water to enter and pollute the source (reservoir)
- The safe water system has not been functional since about the 28th of October. People are drawing water from a pool on the ground in front of the source (reservoir) where children also swim
Engineer Barasa has provided APDAG with recommendations as to how the facility can be repaired and eventually improved over a series of stages (based on time and available funds). The immediate plan to restore supply of treated water, which consists of emergency repairs to the delivery pipe and disinfection of the spring source. We expect this to be taken care of this week so we can then begin tackling the recommendations Engineer Barasa has given for short and medium-term repairs and improvements to the facility.
IMPORTANT NEWS: From the morning of Monday, November 12th to midnight on Wednesday, November 14th all donations made to our relief efforts through our grant-giving partner One Days Wages will be matched (up to $2,000). Please make a donation now: http://www.onedayswages.org/donate/org/hurricane-sandy-relief-haiti
While our partners in Haiti continue rationing out the last full tank of treated water to residents, community members continue to clean out the protective shelter around the water source. Though they do not yet have access to treated drinking water, their effort to clean up the spring has resulted in access to water that can be used for cooking (boiling), cleaning, and bathing. The community has also collectively begun assembling rocks that will be used in the construction of larger, stronger retaining walls to protect the facility better in the future.
We have made contact with several engineers in Haiti that, in the next few days, will visit the facility, assess the damage, and help the community develop a plan and budget to repair the damaged piping and construct additional retaining walls. We are extremely grateful to those of you who have donated already but we still need more support if we are to get the facility back up and running. Please continue sending these updates to friends and family before our issue becomes too distant to them.
The other disturbing update we have gotten is about families that have lost their homes to Hurricane Sandy. It is the same as we are seeing in New York and New Jersey, but the stark difference between the two is that in rural Haiti there is NO such thing as homeowners insurance or federal or state emergency funds that will be there for these people. We have to be there for these people!
To make a donation now, in support of our relief efforts, click here.
Thank you for your continued sacrifice and support. Please remain by our side.
Chad W. Bissonnette
As I waited the storm out in my apartment last night, watching the latest news reports on the television and the rain and wind hit my window, I couldn’t help think about the differences between here and the where we work in Haiti. For the thousands of island residents we support, there is no National Guard that will respond, no media that will cover their ongoing nightmare, and no emergency services to call upon. We have electricity that has gone out, subway systems that are down, basements that have flooded. Five days have past since the storm left Haiti and our friends do not have access to clean drinking water or even water to bathe with.
Since the rain stopped this past weekend the community has been working feverishly to clean up as much as they can and put together a thorough assessment of the damage. At this point we know that the piping that carries water from the source to the collection tank has been permanently damaged. Rocks carried by heavy rains down the mountain and boulders that fell during mudslides have smashed the pipes and separated them from each other. The facility will not be up and running again until the damaged pipes have been removed and new pipes have been installed. Luckily the rest of the system is intact.
Help us raise money for these emergency repairs by making a donation now!
The scariest reality Stevenson, the President of the community association we work with in Gran Sous, has shared with me, is that residents who were unable to collect rainwater in plastic containers during the storm are currently collecting water from a large pool that has formed on the ground a few hundred feet behind the spring area. This is very dangerous given the prevalence of water-borne illnesses in the area, especially cholera. In fact, a husband and wife in Gran Sous were just sent away to the hospital with cholera. Stevenson believes that the wife became infected after visiting family in Port-au-Prince, and that the husband became ill upon the wife’s return. With the community’s current water situation, it could take only one infected person to spark a serious outbreak.
Stevenson and the rest of the community volunteers (members of APDAG) have been trying to figure out any alternatives that may exist for residents to access safe drinking water immediately. They visited a neighboring water facility, actually our most recent water project, in the community of Nan Plim to see if the system could temporarily serve area residents. They found the facility undamaged by the hurricane, but that the path to the facility had been blocked by falling earth from a mudslide. APDAG is meeting this afternoon to discuss their options and come up with an action plan.
I have been in touch with several groups on the ground in Haiti that may be able to provide us with some technical assistance to help us repair the Gran Sous facility but we must continue raising funds to cover these costs. We are hoping to get in touch with a charitable group that might be able to provide us with an emergency grant or a matching grant for donations that come in over the next few weeks for hurricane relief. Please let us know if you have any connections to an organization or foundation that could help us in this way. And, please continue sharing our updates with friends, family, and colleagues via Facebook and Twitter. You, and they, can help us address this issue immediately by making a donation on our Causes page: Roots of Development Hurricane Response Page
Thank you very much,
Chad W. Bissonnette