Disaster ministries, mission staff assess hurricane damage, begin planning for response
Update: Oct. 13, 2016
Staff of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries have been assessing storm damage and needs in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. A Church of the Brethren response is being planned, with funding through donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund; go to www.brethren.org/edf to support this effort.
The Haitian Church of the Brethren (l’Eglise des Freres d’Haiti) “continues a comprehensive evaluation of the impact on Brethren families and communities,” reported Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries. “Early reports indicate flooding and mudslides damaged homes in a number of communities with Brethren families. The heavy rains destroyed crops and killed livestock, causing great concern about longer term hunger and food insecurity in this already food insecure country.”
Brethren Disaster Ministries plans to work closely with the Haitian Brethren, the Global Food Initiative (GFI), and the Haiti Medical Project in carrying out a response effort. Winter noted that a supply of canned chicken provided by the Southern Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Districts arrived in Haiti recently and will be the first point of distribution to the most vulnerable families.
Although Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) was put on alert and had volunteers ready to provide childcare on the east coast, the American Red Cross has asked them to “stand down” for the moment. CDS expected to be asked to respond in Florida, but the hurricane actually caused more flooding and damage in North Carolina. Associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller today reported that another CDS team is being identified and will be ready to go if and when CDS receives the call for North Carolina.
Updates from Haiti
Ilexene Alphonse, Global Mission staff in Haiti, has been traveling to affected areas and sent a brief report on Wednesday, after returning from the town of Cayes.
“Three of us went to Cayes in public transportation,” he reported. “We went to a village called Mathurine, what we saw there is heartbreaking. Everything destroying, houses, schools, churches and gardens. They lost everything. We didn’t see anyone there to help them.”
The Brethren group brought along a small amount of relief goods, children’s clothing and shoes, which “the people received like manna from Heaven,” Alphonse reported. “We saw children crying for food, they are really hungry. Places people are sleeping are places many of us will never let our dogs sleep in.
“We saw a lot of relief trucks but all went to Jacmel at this point and left those people in dire need.”
Alphonse also has visited a place that suffered much destruction close to the Church of the Brethren ministry center in the Croix des Bouquets area near Port-au-Prince. “When I got there and saw where mothers sleeping with their children I could not hold my tears. I can’t really find words to describe what I saw in those communities,” he reported.
There are other places where Brethren families are affected, Alphonse said, but he has not yet been able to visit them. In the two communities he has visited, there was no loss of life but losses of houses, schools, churches, livestock, clothing, and household supplies.
He reported that the following numbers issued by the Haitian government are being quoted in the Haitian media, showing the effects of the hurricane on the whole nation: 473 deaths, 75 people still missing, 339 people injured, 175,000 people displaced.
GFI manager Jeff Boshart also has reached out to Haitian Brethren leaders in the United States and in Haiti, and has received some reports.
From Haitian Brethren leader Jean Bily, Boshart learned that news from Brethren communities is still coming in, but reports so far indicate that most damage is to agriculture with loss of crops and animals, and impacts on health including the fear of further cholera outbreaks. “The only exception is in the extreme northwest of the country and that isn’t getting much press,” Boshart reported. “The news is on the southwest but the storm tracked over the northwest part of the island as well, and we [the Church of the Brethren] have a presence in the town of Bombardopolis.”
For five years the GFI has funded a goat-raising project with school students in Bombardopolis through CEPAEB (Coordination des Enfants Pour le Progres Agricole et Educationnel de Bombardopolis). The program has lost livestock Bily reported, and there was damage to numerous houses. Bily plans to travel to Bombardopolis to get pictures and more details.
Boshart also shared brief reports from other areas where Haitian Brethren staff are gathering information:
— The Tom Gato community southwest of Port-au-Prince, in the mountains above Leogane, where houses were rebuilt following the earthquake, also lost crops and animals.
— Morne Boulage and La Ferrier lost crops and animals. There was already a project underway there to build latrines in coordination with Haiti Medical Project, and a further response effort may be an opportunity to work on more latrines for these communities.
— Remosaint is a very isolated mountain community to the north of Port-au-Prince, and a member of the National Committee of l’Eglise des Freres d’Haiti plans to visit there and bring back news.
— Another concern in Haiti is the downing of avocados from many trees. Bily reported that at this time of year, school children count on avocados for one meal (likely breakfast) on their way to or from school. Also, earlier this year a new pest arrived in Haiti, the sugar cane aphid, and wiped out the sorghum harvest in many places. “This on top of widespread hunger from last year’s El Nino drought will mean much hunger in the coming months,” Boshart said.
Ludovic St. Fleur, a minister based in Florida and a founding minister of the church in Haiti, reported from his contacts in the Bombardopolis area as well as the south of the country. St. Fleur’s congregation in Miami is considering taking on the task of receiving donations of material goods to help out those in need in Haiti, but is assessing the associated costs of shipping the goods and distributing them.
BDM seeks funding for hurricane response
Brethren Disaster Ministries is working on a funding request to support the Church of the Brethren and the Church World Service (CWS) responses in Haiti. Winter plans an initial emergency grant request from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to fund emergency relief operations and to develop a larger response plan, in cooperation with the Haitian Brethren, GFI, and the Haiti Medical Project.
“It will take awhile for the Haitian Church of the Brethren to develop their goals and to work with them on a response plan,” he noted.
A second EDF grant request will be made in support of the CWS response. “This will support the CWS work in the far southwest and northwest departments of Haitil,” Winter said. “This grant will support home repair and rebuilding, a focus on agriculture and livelihood programs including seed distribution, animals, and micro-credit activities, and psychosocial programs.”
Church World Service update
A CWS report issued this week focused on areas where the humanitarian organization has been active following the 2010 earthquake. It also reported a much higher death toll than the Haitian media reports that Ilexene Alphonse shared, saying that there have been 842 deaths.
“In the towns of Ganthier and Boen, Haiti, CWS has led an ACT Alliance program to build and repair houses for families displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Ganthier has been flooded, but all of the houses in this program as well as schools that CWS helped construct in the aftermath of the earthquake are still standing,” the report said. “Some are now serving as shelters.”
CWS is taking part in the ACT Alliance response, which will support housing repair, help to rebuild damaged or destroyed infrastructure, animal shelter, seed distribution and grain storage, road repair, micro-credit, soil conservation, and psychosocial support.
“Based on learning from the 2010 earthquake, CWS will advocate with Haitian authorities (Ministry of Agriculture, IBESR -child welfare agency, CNSA-National Commission on Food Security) and selected agencies of the UN system (UNICEF) that the voice of local Haitian organizations and communities be heard and that they have a role in recovery and rehabilitation efforts,” the report said.
For more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries go to www.brethren.org/bdm . For online donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund go to www.brethren.org/edf . To send support for the hurricane response by mail, send checks to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.
Update, Oct. 7:
As Hurricane Matthew batters Florida today, Brethren Disaster Ministries continues to monitor the situation and is working to determine response plans in the Caribbean and on the east coast. Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has put volunteers on alert.
“We have a team of 12 ‘on alert’ for Matthew,” reports CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller. CDS’s partner contact at the American Red Cross has let her know that any need for disaster childcare in Florida will not be known until tomorrow, Saturday. Although there are many evacuation shelters open now, most of those will close after the danger has passed.
Staff in Haiti continue to assess the storm’s effects on congregations of l’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). Ilexene Alphonse, staff of Global Mission and Service, plans to visit communities on Saturday.
Midwives for Haiti, a partner organization of the Haiti Medical Project of the Church of the Brethren, also reported on damage. “All of Haiti, including Hinche and the Central Plateau, have received incredible amounts of rain. With rain comes flooding and the risk of landslides,” wrote executive director and founder Nadene Brunk. “In the region where we work, because the rivers are flooding many of the homes along rivers have been destroyed. People are sheltered at schools and churches but food and clean water are hard to get for those without homes. There is great concern about cholera because septic tanks and sewers overflowed and wells are contaminated.”
A shortcut to the latest Hurricane Matthew news from the Church of the Brethren has been created: www.brethren.org/hurricane-matthew-news . Support the hurricane response by giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund online at www.brethren.org/edf or by check to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin IL 60120.
Update, Oct. 5:
Brethren leaders from Haiti and the Dominican Republic have begun sending preliminary news of their situation in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which hit the island shared by the two Caribbean nations on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The reports have been communicated to the Global Mission and Service office and received by office manager Kendra Harbeck.
A preliminary report from Haiti was sent by Ilexene Alphonse, staff of Global Mission and Service serving with l’Eglise des Freres Haitiens (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti). So far no loss of lives and no loss of homes have been reported among the Haitian Brethren.
Richard Mendieta, president of the church in the DR, reported, “So far so good, just lots of water. But all good thanks to God.”
“There is damage in some cities, but we are looking for information to see if some churches and members of our church have been affected,” reported treasurer Gustavo Lendi Bueno.
Brethren Disaster Ministries preparing a response
“Global Mission and Service through Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing a response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the United States,” reported Roy Winter, associate executive director. “Early reports from the Haitian Church of the Brethren indicate families have taken shelter through the storm and there is no reported loss of life or homes among the Brethren. Communication and access is limited to the far Western part of Haiti due to extensive storm damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure.”
In the coming week, staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries will work with the Haitian Brethren and Church World Service to further assess the situation and determine response plans in the Caribbean and on the east coast of the United States, Winter reported.
Disaster response staff are monitoring the progress of the hurricane and will work with local districts in response to any damage in Florida, the Carolinas, or other areas. Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) teams already are on alert to respond where needed on the east coast.
“We have a team of 10 people that are ready to go this weekend if needed,” according to CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller.
The Haitian church’s Ministry Center in the Port-au-Prince area is okay, Alphonse said. There is flooding in Marin, however, which is a community that received assistance from Brethren Disaster Ministries after Hurricane Sandy caused flooding in 2012, and after the 2010 earthquake. People affected by flooding have been taking shelter in the Marin church.
Alphonse also shared some news about the general situation in the south of Haiti, which was hardest hit by the hurricane. At least 12 Haitians died in the storm and 20 are missing in communities such as Cayes, Petit Goave, and Miragoane, where there was a lot of storm damage and authorities are still assessing the situation.
Hurricane Matthew is reportedly the strongest storm to affect Haiti since the early 1960s. After crossing over Haiti it headed for the Bahamas, before it was expected to continue north and affect the east coast of the United States later in the week.
On Wednesday, the “Washington Post” reported that “the full extent of Matthew’s blow to Haiti remained unclear, with communications almost fully severed to some regions in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation–where tens of thousands of people still live in tents after an earthquake six years ago killed 200,000 people.”
More updates from the hurricane response and the situation in Haiti and the DR will be shared as they become available.
Support the Hurricane Matthew response in the Caribbean and US by giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund online at www.brethren.org/edf or by check to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin IL 60120.