Highlight: Hurricane relief in Haiti with Worldvision

The island nation of Haiti suffered severe damage at the wrath of Hurricane Matthew. Just hours after the major storm moved on, the relief ministry World Vision had workers on the ground, meeting the basic survival needs of Haiti’s victims.  Mark Smith with World Vision says, at this point, just assessing the full damage in Haiti is a challenge.

“We don’t have the full picture yet; communication lines are somewhat spotty. There are a lot of power lines down, trees down, bridges have been knocked down or washed away…We know that the southern part of the island was the most heavily impacted, (but) getting our assessment teams in there is a challenge.”

“We do know there has been major flooding; a lot of homes have been destroyed. We know that there’s just been massive damage, and that millions of people have been affected.”

Many of the people in Haiti are still reeling from the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 2010–some still living in tents, cardboard shacks, or temporary shelters, which have now been swept away by Hurricane Matthew.

But as the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation must recover once again from natural disaster, Smith says Haiti may have been slightly more ready this time.

 “If there is a good story within this hurricane in Haiti, there was a lot of work in preparation for an event like this taking place in many communities. Fifteen years ago, a similar storm coming through here would have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of people perish. In this case, the numbers are very low.”

“One of the reasons is a lot of this community work in terms of preparedness and planning–what to do when danger is approaching, building more storm resistant shelters if possible, it has begun to pay off.”

World Vision has been working in the country of Haiti for the past thirty years. Smith says their model is to partner with the people of Haiti, not just for temporary relief, but to rebuild their communities and empower them to provide for their own families’ futures.

“In terms of ongoing relief efforts, we try and move out of the emergency relief  ‘hand-out’ phase as soon as we can. One of our goals is to help families begin to take care of themselves as opposed to an agency like ours (or other agencies or the local governments) continuing to assist people with handouts…obviously, that time frame will often depend on how serious the impact of any disaster was.”

“There’s a dignity that comes in being able to provide for your family and we find that so many people in some of these very poor countries, including places like Haiti, don’t want handouts; they do not want to live on the generosity of others indefinitely. They need a hand up for a period of time. So what we’re working to do is help them take care of their own families and really allow them to build a resilience for events like a Hurricane Matthew when they come through.”

Mark Smith works as World Vision’s senior director for humanitarian emergencies. To find out more about World Vision, and their ongoing relief effort in Haiti, visit their website.

Hurricane relief in Haiti with Worldvision
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