Handicap International Project Officer, Pauline Lavirotte, is coordinating the organization's efforts to meet the basic needs of the people in Haiti affected by Hurricane Matthew. On her return from an assessment mission in Jean-Rabel, in the north-west part of the country, she shared her concerns about the long-term impact of the disaster on already vulnerable populations:
“Jean-Rabel is an isolated commune in the north-west department of Haiti, halfway between Môle Saint-Nicolas and Port-de-Paix. It is located in a mountainous region which is very arid in comparison with the rest of the country. There are around 140,000 people in the municipality. The people live in different places scattered across the hills and they mainly live off raising livestock and farming.
In order to respond to the most urgent needs, the local residents have developed mutual support mechanisms, such as the 'tontines,' a type of local microfinance institution. There is a strong sense of solidarity among the villagers.
Apart from a few Haitian associations and other development organizations, the limited presence of humanitarian aid organizations means there is little information getting back to the main NGOs in Port-au-Prince, and this has prompted us to carry out an assessment in this area.
The closer north-west you travel, the more damage you see, particularly from Bombardopolis onwards. In Jean-Rabel, many houses collapsed due to the strong winds. Having lost their plantations and livestock, the local inhabitants are very concerned about losing their source of income. The hurricane has made the inhabitants even more vulnerable, when their living conditions were already very precarious.
None of the health centers in Jean-Rabel are sufficiently equipped to care for the injured–Access to drinking water and to health centers is almost non-existent. Those who have been affected by the hurricane have taken refuge in their neighbors' homes and have no access to temporary shelter.
Since Hurricane Matthew hit, Jean-Rabel has been completely forgotten about, even ignored. The people impacted urgently need a place to stay and access to drinking water. The long term consequences of the hurricane will be extremely serious if they do not receive adequate support.”