Distributions underway on La Gonâve Island

Grand Vide, in a remote corner of La Gonâve island’s west coast, was hard hit when Matthew passed over Haiti’s southern peninsula into the gulf where the country’s largest island sits. But their struggles have gone largely unnoticed by the world.

Grand Vide is home to approximately 300 families. When Hurricane Matthew swept over the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation, it claimed more than 300 lives, and destroyed homes, livelihoods and infrastructure. The people in Grand Vide are a few hundred among the nearly 1.5 million people that are in need of humanitarian assistance around the country.

Many of the tiny fishing communities that dot the coastline were inundated by rain and storm surge, and unrelenting winds blew away roofs and caused hundreds of homes to collapse. The island, only connected by a handful of roads, saw 40-50 percent of its infrastructure destroyed.

Concern Haiti emergency team on their way to La Gonave to respond to Hurricane Matthew. Photo: Peter Doyle/Concern Worldwide.
Concern Haiti emergency team on their way to La Gonave to respond to Hurricane Matthew. Photo: Peter Doyle/Concern Worldwide.

Emergency response in Grand Vide

Concern’s Emergency Response Manager Peter Doyle spent three hours traveling on these roads, impassable just after the storm, to reach Port de Bonheur. He was headed to Grand Vide to begin a series of distributions, with partners, of non-food items (NFIs), packages of essential household supplies, around the island.

From Port de Bonheur, it took another hour and a half to reach Grand Vide. Concern’s goods had left our warehouse in Anse à Galets, transferred from truck to a large sailboat, which was too large to come close to shore. With tarps, aqua tabs to purify water, oral rehydration tabs, hygiene kits, and blankets on board for the people of Grand Vide, offloading the stocks required multiple trips by fishing boats to and from the sailboat to retrieve the hundreds of items.

Much needed distribution

For the people of Grand Vide, the distribution was much needed. “I talked to people about the impact of the Hurricane. Some had their homes destroyed or damaged. Most had their farmland ruined,” explains Doyle.

“The community was very happy. One man said ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, this is the first good thing to happen since the hurricane’.”

Though these life-preserving supplies will go a long way to help the people of Grand Vide start to recover, Doyle says there is much more that the community needs.

The people whose homes were destroyed will need help with shelter. Those who lost their crops, they will need help to start again and get food to eat. Many have no money to buy goods.

Preparing for the coming days

With the standing pools of flood water that remain, water-borne diseases like cholera become an even larger threat. The water is also a breeding ground for malaria-causing mosquitos. With few precious toilets and clean water facilities destroyed by the Category 4 storm, sanitation is also a priority.

 Beneficiaries meet with Concern staff prior to the distribution of NFI’s in Grand Vide, a community on the island of La Gonave. Photo: Peter Doyle/Concern Worldwide.
Beneficiaries meet with Concern staff prior to the distribution of NFI’s in Grand Vide, a community on the island of La Gonave. Photo: Peter Doyle/Concern Worldwide.

Though the distribution in Grand Vide reached all members of the community, with thousands of items, Concern Worldwide still has more stocks in place for more distributions across the island in the coming days and weeks. Concern plans on transitioning its response to include longer term shelter and water and sanitation needs.

You can help

Help families affected by the Hurricane Matthew disaster by giving what you can to our emergency appeal.

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