Hurricane Matthew in Haiti 2016 | ActionAid UK

Hurricane Matthew in Haiti 2016

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October 2016. It was the worst disaster to strike Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, and it affected over two million people. ActionAid’s humanitarian response was led by local people and partners, with a programme that was quick, effective, and focused on priorities identified by local communities themselves.

As at April 2017, ActionAid has supported over 58,000 people in some of Haiti’s remotest regions, providing food, water and cholera prevention kits, building long-term resilience through cash for work, commerce and farming, and prioritising women’s rights and protection through women’s safe spaces, enterprise and training.

Women were leaders at all levels of the ActionAid Hurricane Matthew response. From Ismene, the female civil engineer who spearheaded the build of our ‘Women’s Friendly Spaces’, to Elsia, a Cash for Work team leader who sheltered 40 people during the hurricane, ActionAid ensured the specific needs of women were met and that their voices were heard and skills valued.

Hurricane Matthew: facts and figures 

On the night of 4 October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck the south-western tip of Haiti bringing heavy rainfall in the south, south-east and the north-west, and creating the largest humanitarian emergency in the country since the 2010 earthquake.

The Category 4 storm left 806,000 people in need of urgent food assistance and caused considerable damage to housing and agricultural sectors.

Who was affected and what damage was caused?

  • 546 people died in the hurricane, and an estimated 175,500 people were displaced, scattered in over 300 temporary shelters.
  • 2.1 million people were affected and 1.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, including 800,000 children.
  • 34 cholera treatment centres were destroyed.
  • 806,000 people were at an extreme level of food insecurity.
  • In the badly-affected region of Grand’Anse, over 90% of crops were destroyed, as well as a significant loss of livestock.

Ilafab Felix, 69, sits with his grandson in front of the spot where his house used to be before it was completely crushed by a fallen tree during Hurricane Matthew

Ilafab Felix, 69, and his grandson Eric, 9, (name changed), sitting by the remains of their house which was completely crushed by a nearby tree during Hurricane Matthew. They both received support through our local partner KPGA.

Photo: Dylan Roberts/Free Society/ActionAid

What was ActionAid’s response to Hurricane Matthew?

ActionAid Haiti’s response focused on the Grand’Anse department in the south west, because it is one of the worst affected areas, and because ActionAid has a strong local presence and existing partners in the region.

Within Grand’Anse we responded in five communes: Abricots, Beaumont, Bonbon, Jeremie, and Roseaux.

As always, our response was coordinated in terms of the immediate, medium and long term.

Immediate term response (Oct — Nov 2016):

Just hours after the hurricane on 5 October our team set out distributing initial response kits, and despite the challenging conditions, we were able to start distributing hygiene kits soon afterwards. For example:

  • We delivered first response kits to 2,804 households, supporting over 14,000 individuals with basic essentials.
  • We reduced the risk of cholera by giving 3,394 households cholera/hygiene kits, and 1066 households water cleaning tablets.
  • We also trained 3,997 people in hygiene awareness

Medium term response (Dec 2016 — Jan 2017):

In the medium-term, we focussed on empowering and protecting women and helping people earn an income again, through our Cash for Work schemes. For example:

  • We trained 603 community representatives in how to protect women (reaching up to 30,150 people) and constructed four Women Friendly Spaces
  • We gave out cash vouchers for agriculture (742 households), shelter (1,120 households) and women’s commerce (1,000 women).
  • We provided cash for 10 days of work to 2,554 individuals, which rehabilitated 24km of roads and 54.18 hectares of farmland.
  • We trained 78 locally skilled builders to build back better, including 22 women.

Long term response (Feb-April 2017):

In the long term, we continued to promote women’s leadership, supported children, and helped communities to ‘build back better’.

For example:

  • We trained 38 female entrepeneurs in management, marketing and how to make beauty and hygeine products.
  • We offered psychosocial support to 1,719 children, through our Child Friendly Spaces.
  • We gave solar lamps to 500 households, which are also torches and phone chargers.

How did our response promote women’s leadership?

Women face additional challenges during a disaster. It is mostly women who are the caretakers of people in Haiti – the youngest, the eldest; they fetch water and do all the domestic chores. When a community is in crisis, this domestic burden on women increases. This entire burden falls onto their shoulders, and the turbulent context means that they are also vulnerable to increased sexual violence and exploitation.

That’s why helping local women be at the forefront of our response is so important, making our response more effective, inclusive and sustainable.

  • Two months before the hurricane, ActionAid facilitated training of 30 women to become leaders in emergencies.
  • In the immediate aftermath, we identified additional strong women leaders who wanted to help, through our local partners.
  • We provided small wages to compensate women for their leadership work, giving recognition and value to their work.

Yolette Etienne, ActionAid Haiti Country Director said:

At every step of our response, women were promoted, valued, and taken into account. 

What are ActionAid’s plans for future work in Grand’Anse?

ActionAid has a long standing relationship with communities in Grand’Anse and has worked alongside our local partner KPGA for almost 10 years. We will continue to maintain this strong presence in the area for the foreseeable future, transitioning out of the emergency response phase and into development and longer-term work.

We will work to reinforce our new partnerships, as well as our strong relationship with KPGA. We will also continue to support our sponsored children and communities that live in the hurricane-affected region.

ActionAid’s strong focus on building local capacity – through training on women’s protection, on hygiene, on accountability, and for builders and entrepreneurs – has embedded skills and knowledge in a very vulnerable community and hopefully built capacity to respond with more strength to future shocks.

The Women’s Friendly Spaces we have constructed will be permanent community resources, facilitated by ActionAid and local partners to provide support for individual women and to bring groups of women together in the years to come.

You may also be interested in…

Find out more about why we put women at the heart of all emergency responses.

Our Emergency Action Fund ensures we are always ready to respond to emergencies.

Learn more about our emergency response work on our blog.

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