Haiti: After Hurricane Matthew and UMCOR's response

October 24, 2016
Story and photo submitted by the Rev. Jim Gulley
Rocky Mountain Conference Board of Global Ministries

The Category 4 Hurricane Matthew (146 mph winds) that devastated the southern peninsula of Haiti on Oct 4 has left 1.4 million people (including 592,600 children) in need of humanitarian aid. Over 1,000 deaths have been reported, with more expected as flooding recedes and deadly water-borne cholera spreads.

Losses include roofs, houses, bridges and roads; trees shredded and washed away vegetation, burying low-lying farmland and destroyed crops, gardens and livestock, the means of survival in a subsistence agriculture. Driving rain in quantities unimaginable not only removed roofs and collapsed buildings but also destroyed the meager but valuable household goods, including personal papers and records of many.

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) currently has a field office in Haiti and has had it since the 2010 earthquake. Azim Akhtar, UMCOR Haiti’s Head of Mission, is experienced in humanitarian assistance. He and the rest of the UMCOR Haiti staff are already at work responding to this current disaster through an UMCOR grant that will provide emergency water and food rations, cooking pots, and other emergency supplies as needed. An initial $75,000 grant was given for relief supplies.

GlobalMedic, a well-known international partner, will be providing emergency supplies (tarps, etc.) and set up a water purification program to fight cholera which is the next great threat. More than 200 known cases have been already been reported. Read The New York Times story about cholera in Haiti.

Methodist Church of Haiti/Eglise Méthodiste d-Haïti (MCH/EMH) and UMCOR partnership: Along with governments and other groups, the Methodist Church of Haiti and UMCOR have responded as quickly as possible to start meeting some of the staggering human needs of people in the most affected regions. This includes Jeremie, Leone and Les Cayes, among others. UMCOR approved a $10,000 grant and funds have already been received by the Methodist Church Haiti. 

On Oct. 8 and 9, the Methodist Church of Haiti Bishop Gesner Paul and others traveled to Jeremie and delivered food and supplies, bolstering the hope of the people. Local committees in the affected areas were established with community representation and a central Relief Coordinating Committee for the MCH. Assessments are being completed in every location affected. 

By Oct 13, Methodist youth were mobilized and prepared hundreds of relief kits. M. Brulan Jean-Michele of the MCH/EMH Special Relief Committee wrote: "We are preparing to send a convoy of 5 trucks (included one from UMCOR) loaded with food and health kits to Les Cayes and the Jeremie area this Saturday morning. We are planning on reaching 3700 families. … We hope to be able to repeat the same operation every 4 days for the next couple of weeks if the means permit it."

Haiti not yet ready for volunteers: At present, UMCOR advises individual and group volunteers NOT to go to Haiti until our partners there judge they are prepared to host and facilitate the work of volunteers. UMCOR’s Senior Director for Disaster Response has stated: "After the survivors’ basic human needs have been met, and people are beginning to resume their lives, requests for volunteer teams would be fitting.  In the meantime, visits by teams, even individuals or small teams, would run the risk of doing more harm than good. Well-intentioned volunteers generally and unknowingly take energy and resources from host organizations which they would otherwise use to manage or support humanitarian assistance activities."

How can we help? The most effective response is to send money and to continue to pray for people of Haiti. You may support the response to Hurricane Matthew through UMCOR’s Advance giving online:

International Relief Fund - Advance #982450 - Haiti and The Bahamas  
U.S. Disaster - Advance #901670 - Florida, Carolinas, others