Two months after the passage of Hurricane Irma, which mostly hit the northern part of Haiti, many families still face challenges in meeting their critical daily needs. While the human toll and damage have been limited, the consequences are no less for the affected communities. Many families were stripped of everything because of the floods.
“I lost everything. I have nothing left” said a disillusioned Nelta Joachin, a resident of Malfety, the hardest-hit community in the Fort-Liberté area, with about 350 houses flooded. “Despite everything, the Red Cross kits have been very helpful,” she admits. Like other mothers from affected families in the North, Nelta has benefited from some relief items distributed by the Red Cross in the days following the disaster.
“Right now, the needs are so great that people are rushing to the smallest distribution of any kind. You should have seen the incredible crowd that recently generated a distribution of small doses of detergent” notice some representatives of the Northern regional branch of the Haitian Red Cross.
The Haitian Red Cross, with the support of by partners such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the German Red Cross and the American Red Cross, assisted the affected families with food kits, kitchen kits and hygiene kits. This assistance, as useful and necessary it may have been, unfortunately proves to be insufficient to help the recovery of the communities.
Decapitalized and indebted families
“People are currently in real need because they have lost everything – their gardens, belongings, their animals and other livelihoods. They did not have time to save anything, ” says Evelyne Limprevil, member of the Malfety Communal Section Board of Directors (CASEC). “The water had risen to almost two meters and took everything away, even the savings that the families kept in their houses” remembers Florestal Michelangelo, President of the Northern Regional branch of the Haitian Red Cross, which covers 17 local branches.
“We are even more indebted because of loans previously taken,” lament some women, who make their family incomes from the raising of goats and hogs and from small food businesses financed through loans taken from microfinance organizations.
Without insurance coverage to revive their businesses destroyed by floods, these families, at the initiative of women, are forced to take out new loans hoping to repay the previous ones. “I feel like I’m going to lose my head because there are so many problems,” says Evna Monceus, a resident of Malfety.
Irma hit these areas in the back-to-school week, when most parents are still struggling to find ways to pay the entrance fees and buy the necessary supplies for their children. The loss of school materials already purchased added to the anguish of these families who have already lost everything and no longer know which way to turn.
The anxiety of cholera and new floods
Increased debt is not the only anxiety that accompanies the daily lives of families in the north. “The threat of cholera is constant because of the flooded latrines,” says Virline Romain, President of the regional branch of the North-East of the Haitian Red Cross, and a nurse by training. “People need hygiene kits not only because of cholera but also because of other waterborne diseases. People died because of skin diseases following Irma, “she adds.
In addition, most of the affected areas are flood-prone areas. The inhabitants live in the anguish of new floods with each rainfall and are ready to reach the heights.
The residents are unanimous in recommending that the authorities solve the flood problems in most of these northern areas “to prevent them from suffering the same fate as Gonaïves in 2004”. Still, they recognize in the Red Cross “an organization always present at their side in difficult times”.