By Mohammed Syed
Water surged to the roof lines of houses in Princeville, North Carolina last Thursday as Hurricane Matthew continued its campaign of widespread destruction and collateral damage. The United States was the last stop on the trail of the three-week long Category-Four hurricane.
The hurricane had swept through the Lesser Antilles, South America, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Bahamas before finally entering the United States.
Haiti was hit the hardest.
According to a United Nations report released on October 15, 546 people are dead, 438 were injured, and 128 are still missing. 2.1 million people are reported effected by the hurricane, with 1.4 million in need of life saving assistance. Education has been disrupted for over 116,000 children. 175,000 people are now homeless.
But these circumstances are not new to the region.
The increased water levels from the hurricane have triggered severe flooding, with which has come a wave of cholera infections. Cholera was introduced to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers after the 2010 earthquake.
The devastating 2010 earthquake left much of the country still unbuilt, and thousands, still living in tents, were not prepared for the harsh weather. Energy, communication, and transportation has been severely disrupted. Relief has been largely difficult to transport, and many towns have experienced criminals’ blockades that have looted aid.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon landed in Haiti for a one-day visit on October 15. He was able to witness the corruption and slow-aid response first hand.
“I firmly condemn all attacks against humanitarian convoys. Today I personally witnessed a WFP (World Food Program) truck being attacked,” Ban stated. “We are going to mobilize as many resources and as much medical support as we can to first of all stop the cholera epidemic and second support the families of the victims.”
The United Nations put out an appeal for 120 million dollars of aid, but only 6.1 million has been raised as of last week. Private aid groups have held the backbone of the relief. Oxfam had raised around 300,000 dollars in donations, and Catholic Relief Services raised over 1.5 million online.
The 145 mph winds have resulted in utter devastation. In the Grand-Anse region, the World Food Program has reported nearly 100 percent of crops and 50 percent of livestock destroyed. There are drastic food shortages, and the main economies based on farming and gardening, fishery and charcoal production are severely impacted with no estimated date of recovery.
The situation in the United States, a ninety-minute flight away, is not looking too good either.
North Carolina officials have estimated that 1.5 billion dollars’ worth of damage has been caused to more than 100,000 homes, businesses, and government buildings.
The State Department of Public Safety issued a statement on Saturday detailing that more than 33,000 applications have been filed for individual assistance to FEMA, and 12.4 million dollars’ worth has been approved.
The death toll in the US has been calculated at 46.
Over 250,000 customers in Georgia were left without power during the Hurricane. One million people had power affected in Florida. South Carolina was also impacted by immense flooding. Virginia was also hit with less intense floods. Although a Category two storm by the time it reached the US, the damage will take time and effort to reverse.
Many have been reluctant to donate in Haiti due to the corruption in charitable organizations, and the civil disobedience incurring in reaction to the slow aid response. Haiti has yet to raise millions of dollars needed.
The international community will need to respond in a manner that allows Haiti to build itself up from the basic building blocks of development and sustainability- so that it can survive the big storm with minimal impact.