Distributions underway on La Gonâve island

from Concern Worldwide
Published on 14 Oct 2016 View Original

The people of La Gonâve have struggled since Hurricane Matthew, largely out of view. But Concern has been there for decades and along with our partners we’ve launched relief efforts in multiple communities on the island — most recently the isolated area of Grand Vide.

The community of Grand Vide, on a remote corner of La Gonâve island’s west coast, was hit hard when Matthew passed through. But so far the struggles of its residents have gone largely unnoticed by the world.

During the hurricane, many of the tiny fishing communities that dot the coastline were inundated by rain and storm surges. Winds blew off roofs and caused hundreds of homes to collapse. The island has only a handful of roads, and Hurricane Matthew destroyed almost half of what little infrastructure La Gonâve had.


Getting supplies to remote communities like Grand Vide under these conditions is no mean feat. Concern’s Emergency Response Manager Peter Doyle traveled for three hours on what was left of La Gonâve’s roads (only just reopened after the storm) to reach Port de Bonheur. From Port de Bonheur, it took another hour and a half to reach Grand Vide with his cargo of essential supplies — a journey that involved a large sailboat. The boat was too big to come close to shore, so we ferried stocks ashore using local fishing boats.

For the people of Grand Vide, the distribution — which included essential supplies like tarps, water purification tablets, hygiene items, and blankets — was sorely needed. “I talked to people about the impact of the hurricane. Some had their homes destroyed or damaged. Most had their farmland ruined,” explains Doyle.

“The community was very happy. One man said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, this is the first good thing to happen since the hurricane.’”


Though these supplies will go a long way to helping the people of Grand Vide begin to recover, Doyle says there is much more that the community needs.

“The people whose homes were destroyed will need help with shelter. Those who lost their crops will need help to start again and get food to eat. Many have no money to buy goods.”

Water and sanitation is also a priority. Before the hurricane, clean water and proper toilet facilities were already scarce on La Gonâve, and many of these were damaged during Matthew. Standing pools of water still dot the landscape, further increasing the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera and providing a breeding ground for malaria-spreading mosquitos.

Concern will continue distributions across the island in the coming days and weeks, but we will soon begin transitioning our response to address these longer term water, sanitation, and shelter needs.


Concern has prepositioned stocks on La Gonâve for 800 families and is preparing distributions to more of the island’s most affected and vulnerable residents. Using comprehensive assessments submitted by teams that deployed rapidly in Matthew’s wake, we’ll be ramping up our response, shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities and our partner organizations, as additional stocks reach the island. Every moment counts, so Peter Doyle and his team will be working day and night until needs are fully met.