Week 1: Response efforts amplify to meet growing need in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is working around the clock to lead US response efforts to Hurricane Matthew. / Photo by Marco Rivera, USAID-OFDA

Devastation from last week’s hurricane was expected to be bad, but as teams of aid workers arrived in Sud and Grand ‘Anse regions — the hardest hit areas of Haiti — the assessment of the situation was more dire than anyone expected.

As many as 175,500 people have been displaced from their homes and the UN estimates that 1.4 million people need humanitarian assistance in Haiti. The storm also took the lives of hundreds of people, leaving families and communities mourning as they try to get back on their feet.

USAID’s disaster assistance response team (DART) acted quickly to assess the damage and mobilize support to those affected. You can read about our initial hurricane response efforts here.

We have now reached one week since the storm hit, and USAID is continuing to work with NGO and government partners on the ground to address the most critical needs: food, shelter and safe drinking water.

To coordinate efforts to dispatch assistance as quickly as possible, the USAID DART requested the special capabilities of the U.S. military. In response, U.S. Southern Command formed Joint Task Force Matthew, deploying personnel and equipment to Haiti to support the DART.

As many storm-affected areas are inaccessible by land, airlifting supplies to remote areas is necessary. Numerous U.S. military helicopters are transporting humanitarian supplies and emergency commodities to the field. Approximately 400 military personnel are already on the ground and more are on their way.

Immediate funding was distributed to NGO partners, including the World Food Programme (WFP) and CARE, to mobilize food assistance operations.

On Oct. 9, WFP distributed 1,000 monthly food rations — nearly 1,000 metric tons — in the Les Cayes commune in Sud. Over the weekend, CARE provided hot meals to 9,900 people in four regions. And, USAID delivered more than 6,600 boxes of ready-to-use foods (items like partially precooked meals, high-energy biscuits and compressed food bars) to Haiti. CARE is also distributing food vouchers, cash transfers and rations to others in need.

By Oct. 11, five USAID cargo flights will have delivered more than 480 metric tons of emergency commodities to Haiti from warehouses in Miami, Florida and Pisa, Italy. The cargo includes enough hygiene kits, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets and blankets to help an estimated 100,000 people.

Residual Concerns: Cholera and Economic Recovery

As short-term needs are met, USAID is also trying to plan for the obstacles that may be encountered during recovery.

A trickle of early cases of cholera — a waterborne illness that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration — are raising concern about further outbreaks.

In addition to supporting cholera surveillance and water sanitation operations by the Haitian Ministry of Health, USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with the Pan American Health Organization to plan for how they can prevent and respond to the disease.

Ensuring the basic health, housing and humanitarian needs of Haitians impacted by Hurricane Matthew is just the first of many steps that will follow in the recovery. Supporting long-term opportunities for rebuilding communities and local economies will be critical. Watch for more news in the coming days of these efforts.

For more information on USAID’s response to Hurricane Matthew and updates on our efforts follow @USAID and @theOFDA on Twitter and visit usaid.gov/Matthew.

For information on how you can help those affected by the hurricane in Haiti, please visit http://www.cidi.org/.