Hurricane Matthew — the strongest storm to hit Haiti in more than 50 years — barreled down on the region in recent days, bringing significant flooding and damage.
The destruction comes to a region already experiencing high rates of instability due to widespread poverty, making the impact of the Category 4 storm especially devastating.
Aid workers in the region report that the impacts of the storm are currently hard to evaluate, with telephone communication in the southern part of the country — which was hardest hit by the storm — entirely cut off.
At least 11 deaths have been reported in the region so far, but with many of the hardest hit areas still inaccessible by emergency workers, that toll is expected to rise. Exact counts of injuries are difficult to estimate due to communication barriers. According to international aid organization CARE, the damage caused by the storm is expected to equal $1 billion.
To help support the survivors of Hurricane Matthew in this crucial time after the storm, check out these ways you can make an impact — even from many miles away. We will update this list as more options become available in the coming days.
Be conscious of the troublesome history impacting how Haitian citizens view aid work.
Though responsible humanitarian aid is undoubtedly vital in the aftermath of a natural disaster like Hurricane Matthew, a history of harm and distrust between aid organizations and Haitian citizens make tackling Hurricane Matthew’s impact especially tricky.
After an immensely destructive earthquake in Haiti in 2010 displaced 1.5 million people and flattened entire communities, international aid workers descended upon the region to assist. But many displaced by the natural disaster are still not in stable housing over 5 years later. Though $13 billion dollars has be donated by countries and individuals around the globe to tackle the crisis, Haitians report not seeing much of that money go to work.
The U.N. said their aid workers played a role in the cholera outbreak in the region, which killed thousands over the past 6 years.
The U.N. — arguably the largest international aid organization in the world — has also taken responsibility for a cholera epidemic in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. In August, the United Nations said their aid workers played a role in the outbreak, which has killed thousands over the past 6 years.
Despite massive funding for aid work and widespread international aid organization presence in Haiti, the region has some of the highest rates of poverty in the world. Many Haitian citizens have been critical of this juxtaposition, saying aid workers are not working effectively in their region to make a tangible impact.
Though it is difficult to navigate these feelings of distrust with the undeniable need for aid, recognizing this history is an initial step to undoing some of the historical harm — and giving responsibly.
1. Donate to organizations making an impact on the ground
Several aid organizations are on the ground in Haiti, tackling the needs of individuals and families in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. You can find out more about their individual efforts and attentions below.
More than 3,000 Red Cross volunteers were dispatched across Haiti to help communities prepare for the storm and remain in place to support the region in recovery. The organization is providing emergency supplies, including health and sanitation services, to impacted communities in Haiti. The Red Cross is also poised to respond to regions in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic as they are hit with the storm.
To donate to the Haitian Red Cross, visit here.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, OxFam has been focused on providing clean water and hygiene items to impacted communities to help curb the risk of a cholera outbreak in the region. The organization also plans to provide shelter and sanitation services to families, especially focusing on the southern region of Haiti, which was hardest hit. OxFam has stated it plans to help address hunger in the region in the coming months, which it predicts will become a massive hurdle curing recovery.
To donate to OxFam’s overall emergency relief efforts, visit here.
Global Giving is a donation platform that collects funds to distribute to local nonprofits during emergency situations. Given the widespread distrust of international aid efforts in Haiti, the Haitian nonprofits funded by Global Giving will likely have an easier time effectively working with local communities. These nonprofits have the community connections essential to doing sensitive aid work, especially in a region that has been on the receiving end of harmful aid.
To donate to Global Giving’s Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund, visit here.
International aid organization CARE is currently providing hygiene kits, clean water containers, blankets and tarps to more than 50,000 citizens in Haiti. Prior to the storm, the organization worked to provide hundreds of evacuated families with meals at local shelters.
To donate to CARE’s efforts in Haiti, visit here.
The Salvation Army, which has maintained a longstanding presence in Haiti for more than 65 years, is providing water and emergency supplies to survivors of Hurricane Matthew in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The organization is also prepared to assist in helping communities cope with potential outbreaks of typhoid, cholera and malaria.
To donate to The Salvation Army’s relief efforts, visit here.
Mercy Corps has more than 30 volunteers who work in Haiti year round who are evaluating the short and long term needs of the communities they regularly serve. The organization is providing clean drinking water and shelter to those impacted, especially focusing on rural areas where emergency information and aid is scarce.
To donate to Mercy Corps general humanitarian response fund, visit here.
2. Remember especially vulnerable populations.
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is vital to turn attention to communities that are already impacted by inequality. Several organizations are specifically dedicate to the needs of vulnerable communities in crisis, making their work reach those who often have unmet needs.
A few of these at-risk communities, along with organizations working to make an impact, are listed below.
Inequality is a major issue in Haiti, with about 2.5 million Haitians living in extreme poverty. The country is often considered one of the poorest in the world.
Organizations like Concern Worldwide, and faith-based organizations like American Jewish World Services and Catholic Relief Services, are turning their attention on the poorest communities in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. These organizations are especially working to address hunger, lack of water access and dire health needs of survivors who already struggle with these essential needs daily.
During humanitarian crisis, people with disabilities often are blocked from accessing essential aid. Around the globe, about 75 percent of people with disabilities impacted by humanitarian crises report they do not have access to adequate resources, mostly due to access issues and lack of focus on their unique needs.
Handicap International looks to address this barrier, focusing their relief work specifically on the needs of people with disabilities. The organization, which has about 100 workers currently dispatched in Haiti, is currently providing mobility devices and basic support to those with physical disabilities. The team also plans to provide long-term rehabilitation to people with storm-related injuries and psychological support to those impacted.
In any natural disaster, children are among some of the most threatened by destruction and instability. Working with local partners and staff, Save the Children is providing children and their families with hygiene kits, baby items, household kits, mosquito nets and jerry cans. The organization also plans to evaluate and support the long-term needs of children in the region, including getting youth back in school as soon as possible.
To donate to Save The Children’s efforts in Haiti, visit here.
An unexpectedly vulnerable community in the aftermath of a natural disaster, especially in a region like Haiti, is farmers. Farmers rely on land and livestock for their livelihood — and Heifer International is reporting that lifeline has been torn away from many families by Hurricane Matthew. According to the organization, many regions of Haiti are reporting a tremendous loss of livestock and crops. The organization plans to help farmers in the country rebuild in the coming months, after immediate emergency needs are met.
To donate to Heifer International’s general efforts, visit here.
3. Make sure your friends and family are safe.
As with many national and international disasters, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for those in the impacted area. Facebook users affected by the hurricane can use the feature to confirm their safety and alert friends of their status.
Safety Check also allows Facebook users to monitor their own friends lists to ensure none of their loved ones are in the immediate area. Users can also mark their friends and loved ones as safe if they’ve been in touch. To use the feature, click here.
It is essential to note, however, that with extreme poverty in the region, tech-based safety features only reach a certain population with the privilege to have access. With electrical access downed in much of the region and the likely destruction of internet-accessible property, the feature may not have as wide-reaching of an impact as in other crisis scenarios.
4. Keep tabs on long-term needs long after initial attention wanes
Even after immediate needs are met, long-term support is crucial to ensure communities in Haiti have all they need to rebuild. Several of the above organizations — including Global Giving, CARE and Handicap International — have all stated they are dedicated to long-term, sensitive support in the region. Bookmark their efforts to keep up-to-date on the latest needs in Haiti in the coming days, weeks and months.
But, as history in the region shows, it is also essential to go beyond listening to aid organizations assert the needs of Haitians after Hurricane Matthew. As a global community, we also have an obligation to listen to those directly impacted as they voice their own needs in aftermath of the storm to provide aid that is truly helpful.