Despite civil protection officials taking to the streets to warn people, many on Haiti’s southern peninsula were unaware of the approach of Hurricane Matthew. It caused the greatest loss of life (1600) of any Atlantic Hurricane for eleven years.
A ShelterBox Response Team was on the ground within days.
As soon as the airports re-opened, a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) from the UK, US, Germany and Canada arrived in Haiti, some of whom had experience of the 2010 earthquake response. The team’s emphasis was on the distribution of thousands of shelter kits, allowing the weatherproofing and repair of damaged homes. ShelterBox tents were found to be ideal for use as clinical space, to provide shelter and privacy for patients of the overstretched healthcare facilities. ShelterBox also provided solar lighting for families where power was down, and mosquito nets, via its Rotary contacts. Water filters were used to guard against the spread of waterborne disease. Within days of Matthew, as after the quake of 2010, Haiti was once again in the grip of a cholera outbreak.
Three Australia SRT members were deployed to assist the Response Team in Haiti. Central Coast SRT member, Peita Berzins, Tasmanian Art Shrimpton and South Australia Lucy Dodd (on her first deployment) were heavily involved in the logistics of getting aid through customs in Port au Prince and the preparation of non-food item kits to accompany Shelter Kits. These kits included essential like water filters, mosquito nets and solar lights.
Many towns had a high proportion of destroyed and damaged buildings and infrastructure, but in sharp contrast to the 2010 quake the Haitian Government coordinated efforts to clear, repair and rebuild, and took a lead on allocating specific tasks to groups of aid agencies. The thousands of shelter kits and non-food items helped families to cope in the interim.
ShelterBox’s Response Team was based in Les Cayes and Port au Prince, as they worked to find ways to help Haitian people recover, rebuild, re-energise. The Les Cayes Rotary Club helped to identify what kind of aid was needed, and where. A long-established alliance with major humanitarian player Handicap International also strengthened ShelterBox’s arm.
ShelterBox has been touched by the resilience and compassion of the Haitian people, and their pride in helping one another.