Local experts key to USAID’s Hurricane Matthew response

Meet some of the Haitian disaster specialists on the frontlines of USAID’s humanitarian response

USAID/OFDA disaster consultants Ralph Simon (middle) and Marc-Henry Beauzile (right) assess the needs of families staying at a school in Grand’Anse Department to determine how USAID can best assist people displaced by Hurricane Matthew as they return to their homes. / Photo by Irene Gago, USAID

We recently introduced you to members of USAID’s Hurricane Matthew Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which deployed to Haiti as the Category 4 storm barreled across the Caribbean Sea in early October 2016. Now, we’d like you to meet some more of our team — the local disaster experts stationed around the country who have been supporting the DART’s humanitarian response on the ground.

As our DART mobilized in Port-au-Prince, our local disaster experts began reporting conditions from their regions and coordinating with Haitian authorities. Their community knowledge and connections helped USAID prioritize humanitarian needs in the aftermath of the storm, which left 1.4 million Haitians in need of immediate assistance and destroyed more than half of the roads in parts of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula.

Rose, Frantzy, and Bazil, who you will meet below, are part of USAID’s network of 29 disaster risk management specialists and more than 400 on-call disaster consultants who live across Latin America and the Caribbean. These consultants know the land, language, and culture of local communities and serve as our eyes on the ground. They are also critical to USAID’s mission to ensure progress is sustained long after the immediate response effort, and to help reduce the risk of future disasters by building local capacity and resilience in this natural disaster-prone region.

Two months after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, we asked a few of these dedicated humanitarian workers to reflect on their experience working with USAID to help their country recover from this once-in-a-generation storm.

Note: These interviews have been translated from French.

Rose Luce Cadot Prevot, USAID Disaster Risk Management Specialist (DRMS)

Rose, a native of Jacmel, in Sud-Est Department, Haiti. She has worked in the Risk and Disaster Management sector for 16 years, assisting government agencies with disaster response and preparedness.

What is your role on the USAID team? In emergency situations, I act as the primary coordinator for collecting and sharing information with USAID’s Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in Haiti and the regional office in San Jose, Costa Rica. I also provide support to Haiti’s national Emergency Operations Center (EOC) by working with the Haitian Civil Protection Directorate (DPC) to coordinate from the alarm to the humanitarian response. In addition, I coordinate field mobilization and deployment of a team of USAID/OFDA crisis surge support volunteers to assist the regional EOC’s and to help provide real-time reliable information about the situation in the departments and communes. This allows us to better decide which responses are best-suited to each situation.

What is your most memorable moment so far? It was October 6, two days after Hurricane Matthew passed through Haiti. I received a long text message at 10:20 AM, the first message from one of our crisis surge support volunteers deployed in Grand’Anse. The first thing I said was “Thank God he’s alive.” He provided good reliable information to the USAID DART and the DPC on the impact recorded in the Corail commune and other neighboring communes, such as Beaumont and Pestel.

What motivates you?

I was always taught that one person’s suffering is everyone’s suffering, so I feel like I have accomplished my duty when the work I do helps relieve suffering by being part of the response team that helps people affected by a disaster.

What do you want to accomplish in response to this crisis? Hurricane Matthew’s impact was a surprise for Haiti, because the country has not been struck by a hurricane of this category since 1963 (Hurricane Flora). The contingency plans developed, both nationwide and in the departments, didn’t prepare us for the impact suffered from Hurricane Matthew. I’d like for us to take note and remember the lessons we learned, especially in terms of the strategy used to meet the victims’ needs, so that we can act quicker in the future.

Frantzy Pierre-Louis, Disaster Consultant

Frantzy has worked in the Risk and Disaster Management sector for nearly a decade, and has been a humanitarian assistance consultant for USAID’s OFDA team since 2009. When Hurricane Matthew hit, USAID turned to Frantzy, who resides in the Corail commune in Grand’Anse, Haiti, to conduct critical assessments of the impact of the storm in his region.

What is your role on the USAID team? I’m an information manager working with the Haitian Civil Protection Directorate (DPC) in the Grand’Anse Department. My role is to offer short-term coordination support in government agencies. I often take part in emergency response activities and deploy with USAID’s Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) Crisis Surge team in Haiti. I draft reports that I share with the OFDA team in Haiti.

What is your most memorable moment so far? My most memorable moment since I joined the Crisis Surge program was [responding to] Hurricane Matthew. This event allowed me to have many personal and professional experiences. I realized I needed to get more involved in the humanitarian aid sector, especially in research and sharing reliable and timely information.

Seventy-two hours after the incident, I walked about 4 miles in the Corail commune to deliver to my supervisor information on the damage caused by the hurricane. To me, it was just my humanitarian duty.

What motivates you? My training is in Risk and Disaster Management and in assessing the impact and the magnitude of necessary interventions. My heart is also in this work — I’m dedicated to humanitarian causes.

What do you want to accomplish in response to this crisis? To always be available and prepared to help people in difficulty. To work to ease people’s suffering. To increase the awareness of the corresponding authorities and encourage them to make the right decisions to save as many lives as possible during an event.

Bazil Jeanvilneuve, Disaster Consultant

Bazil, a native of Torbeck commune in Sud Department, Haiti, has worked as a disaster consultant for USAID/OFDA since 2009. Since Hurricane Matthew hit, he has been coordinating response activities in his region between USAID and Haitian authorities.

What is your role on the USAID team? I work as the USAID/OFDA primary coordinator in the Sud/Les Cayes Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and assist the EOC during emergencies. I monitor operations and make sure everything runs smoothly; I send reports to USAID/OFDA or its representative in Port-au-Prince. I also help assess damage, analyze the needs of the victims, and make sure aid gets where it’s supposed to go.

What is your most memorable moment so far? My most memorable moment was the night Hurricane Matthew hit. During the hurricane, I spent my time with humanitarian partners and local authorities, including employees of the Haitian Civil Protection Directorate (DPC) and the Haitian National Police (PNH) at the Regional Health Center (CRS). It was a daunting yet exceptional situation.

What motivates you? Being motivated to help in a disaster means wanting to save lives and property, to find out what the direct victims need the most and to direct help to the most vulnerable individuals, to help those who are suffering.

What do you want to accomplish in response to this crisis?

During the crisis, my goal is to make sure everything goes as planned; that aid gets where it’s supposed to go. This means [helping] the populations who suffer from this disaster get back on their feet and strengthening their resilience to be less vulnerable than before.

Find more information on USAID’s Hurricane Matthew response efforts here.

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