Emergency shelter experts from ShelterBox are now in Haiti assessing damage and need in a country reeling from yet another natural catastrophe. Hurricane Matthew has left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands in need of help.
Floodwater, collapsed bridges, downed power lines – just a few of the barriers that await aid workers in Haiti, with many of the worst affected areas currently accessible only by air or sea.
The US Navy is using helicopters to reach some communities and to airlift the injured, but the general picture that meets the ShelterBox team that arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday evening is of medical, food, fresh water and shelter need that will present huge challenges over coming days and weeks.
ShelterBox Coordinator, Andrew Clark, says, ‘Our ShelterBox response team arrived in Port au Prince from the UK, USA, Canada and Germany. We landed in the dark and headed to our Haiti base, a secure compound close to the airport. To that end we have seen no ill effects of the hurricane yet, and local sources tell us that Port au Prince was largely untouched by Hurricane Matthew.’
‘After a team briefing running through safety and security protocols, agreeing our team tasks and generally getting our bearings, we set to. Today we are conducting detailed research to gain a better understanding of need, reaching out to partners, and ascertaining the best fit from a geographical and operational stand point.’
We look to serve the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities, so we will play our role in shelter and logistics elements of the Global Cluster aid mechanism – this is where aid agencies and government officials work together to agree the most effective responses.
‘We have ShelterBox aid both in country and close by in Panama, but we must first assess the type of aid required so that it is appropriate to each scenario.’
After Haiti and Cuba, Hurricane Matthew pounded the Bahamas on Thursday, but no fatalities were reported there. Four people died in the Dominican Republic, neighboring Haiti, on Tuesday. The hurricane is currently winding its way up the south-eastern US coast, just miles from the Florida coast, which is being battered by strong winds and rain.
At least three million inhabitants have been ordered to evacuate their homes, including in Georgia and South and North Carolina as Matthew tracks up the US eastern seaboard. A state of emergency is in place in these states.