Marie Ange Azor’s story
I can only think of the word desolation to describe the situation now in Jeremie, south of Haiti.
My family and I lost everything in the hurricane. We only have the clothes we are currently wearing. I lived near the source “Dommage” in the coastal area, now me, my three children and others in my family are staying in a temporary shelter, the Lycée Jeune Filles. But with children it’s very difficult to live in such a place.
Before the hurricane hit us, my community was warned by the Haiti Red Cross volunteers to leave the area, but during the evacuation, I only had time to grab my children. I got cut by a nail while we were racing for the shelter. But I can’t even go to the hospital. I don’t have money. And I lost everything, my home and my small rice trade business. Every bag of rice and flour were wet or washed away.
I feel very desperate, but thankfully, there is no other injured person in my family except for me and the Red Cross helped us evacuate to a safe shelter right before the storm.
A Red Cross worker’s story
As the storm was approaching, I traveled with a Red Cross team to Jeremie in the department of La Grande-Anse in order to provide the community with information about how to stay safe. We knew that this hurricane would be one of the most violent ones and that the best thing we could do was to prepare the communities, with special attention to the people living in coastal areas.
Some people didn’t believe the storm would be as bad as it was, and they didn’t want to leave their homes. But the police and Red Cross volunteers worked hard persuading people to leave the most vulnerable areas.
The majority of houses in Jeremie are made from wood and so was the little hotel where the Red Cross team was staying. A couple of hours before the hurricane, even we were asked to evacuate, and were able to find a safer place to stay. We later learned that the roof of our hotel collapsed, but that was nothing compared to the overwhelming devastation caused by the storm.
This hurricane was the strongest I had ever seen. The night it hit seemed like an eternity and we were far from our family and friends. But the Red Cross team stayed together checking on each other and stayed safe. And at the first moment we could, we set out to mos affected areas. We were among the first there, right after the hurricane.
We had distributed blankets to people in shelters before the hurricane and we delivered more afterward. We mobilized volunteers to support the Haitian Civil protection in the clearing of the roads and distributed 26 shelter tool kits with materials for emergency shelter and tools for making small repairs to damaged homes.
Communication had become very difficult so we offered our satellite phones, so that the government in Port-au-Prince and the local authorities could coordinate.
When the weather conditions got better, the Red Cross flew in more critical relief supplies to the area, including disinfectants, aquatabs, oral rehydration salts and soap, as we are concerned about health consequences of damaged sanitation and water structures.
I am seeing the world with new eyes after this shocking experience. When you see people losing everything from one day to the next, and have only the clothes they are wearing, it can’t help but change you.