A year after Hurricane Matthew: an assessment of CECI’s actions

Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, is responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Matthew caused major losses across the country, especially in the southwestern peninsula, destroying agricultural production and causing significant damage to houses and infrastructure.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti (OCHA) estimated that 2.1 million people were severely affected by the hurricane across the country(1) in the weeks that followed its passage. In its 2017-2018 report, OCHA estimates that 1.4 million Hurricane Matthew victims still have needs in terms of water and sanitation, shelter and protection, and livelihoods(2).

The impact of the hurricane added to the pre-existing humanitarian needs throughout the country, caused by the cholera epidemic, the El Niño related drought, the binational migration crisis and displacements from the 2010 earthquake. Work must continue in order to help families return to their houses and to get back their livelihoods, particularly agriculture and livestock farming.

The first emergency phase

In the aftermath of the cyclone, CECI mobilized resources to quickly help victims in the communes of Les Cayes, Maniche, mp-Perrin and Beaumont, thanks to the financial support of the Government of Quebec, the Government of Canada, the Roncalli Foundation and donations from the public. These timely actions provided support to two municipalities (Maniche and Camp-Perrin) and to the Gelée community (Cayes), by distributing cleaning tools such as shovels, wheelbarrows and axes, and by repairing roads. These actions also helped support affected families by distributing food and non-food kits and water treatment tablets to 1,040 families, more than 60% of which were women. These kits, whose composition has made it possible to respond to the real needs of women and men in a post-cyclonic context, have been very successful locally.

Following the consultation work of the support committees that were set up to represent the local communities (comprising especially of women, youth, religious leaders, agricultural technicians and local authorities), it was decided to focus our activities on repairing the house roofs of 452 families to enable them to return quickly to live in their houses. As a priority, the intervention focused on single-parent families led by women, who represent 44% of households in this region. CECI has repaired 28% of the damaged houses in the Sous-Roche district and in Les Cayes, 10% of the houses in the Melon county (Maniche), 5% of the houses in Camp Perrin (second section Champlois) and 47% of the houses in the Di Lagon, Nan Ginen and Nan Kafe localities (Beaumont). The purchase of material and small equipment for the repair of houses was done on site to support the local market. In addition, the project helped update the good practices of the workers who were trained and guided by CECI engineers.

The project also supported the resumption of agricultural activity in 3,185 households, by providing targeted inputs as per the farming practices of the families. Finally, 350 women who had an economic activity before the hurricane were selected for economic recapitalization and received a training in financial management to build their capacities.

"I lost everything during the passage of Hurricane Matthew: my house, my business, my garden, as well as the cattle. I was in dire straits because I had not received any help. But the grant from CECI helped me get back on my feet and I am running my business again." Michelle Marcelon, Camp-Perrin

A community approach that involves and strengthens women!

Thanks to the financial support given by the Government of Canada until March 2018, CECI could continue its efforts and extend its work to two additional communes: Jérémie and Roseaux. Activities related to violence prevention and hygiene were also organized to complete the services offered to the population.

Through this new phase, 300 women have so far benefitted from funds to restart their business and economic activities (two thirds in new communes); 2,500 farmers (out of 1,400 expected) received banana, yam and coconut seeds, with training in improved planting techniques and field crop monitoring by our expert teams; 223 houses have been repaired, while 317 others have already been targeted for roof repairs, with the help of sheet metal and building material, by workers hired to support families. A carpenter and a mason, trained as part of a CECI project in Port au Prince, have put their knowledge to the benefit of the project by training local workers. This intervention method is also a means of demystifying construction trades in rural areas, and to show women heads of families that they too can repair their houses.

A fourth component of the project will enable the setting-up of women’s brigades to combat the spread of cholera through improved hygiene and water treatment, and to share basic nutrition knowledge in a context of scarcity. These brigadiers, in collaboration with local community and health organizations and women’s organizations, will also organize awareness sessions to prevent violence against women, to encourage them to get help and to denounce violence of which they are victims.

Needs that are still great!

Right now, the needs are still great. Some communes have not yet received any humanitarian support since the hurricane. Families have adopted harmful survival strategies: young people are moving to other areas and more and more women, weakened and without any help, risk turning to prostitution. Families are still living far from home in camps for displaced people, with little hope of seeing their homes or living with their relatives, adding to the burden of the families hosting them. It is therefore necessary to continue our intervention to support the most vulnerable families, to enable them to regain hope and to resume a normal life in safe conditions.

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