Severe Flooding Devastates Cap-Haitien
When the news of the approaching Hurricane Matthew started to circulate in Haiti in early October, residents of the northern city of Cap-Haitien hurriedly prepared for the worst. They were largely spared, unlike the cities in the Southwest which are still experiencing widespread devastation as a result. Tragically, while everyone’s attention was fixed on the suffering in the South, Cap-Haitien received the rain they had been expecting a month earlier. Starting on Friday, November 4th, Cap-Haitien was battered under torrential rains. Over 15 inches of rain fell from 5 to 11 pm, flooding every major street, in some cases higher than waist-deep. Those near the hillsides experienced mudslides and falling boulders. While we have heard rumors of fatalities, there is no official count so far.
Twenty-four of SOIL staff members’ homes were flooded and they have been relocated. All of us at SOIL wish that we could spend our time doing what we do best: building long-term solutions to the sanitation crisis and to soil degradation (solutions which lessen the impact of such natural disasters), but sadly, we often find ourselves in the role of emergency response. This devastating tropical storm in Cap-Haitien is yet another situation in which we are pulling up our rubber boots, activating our emergency response network, and getting to work making sure that all of our clients and staff are safe.
In Cap-Haitien, SOIL is often the first responder to flooding in vulnerable neighborhoods like Shada II, where we have three public toilets and just under 100 household toilets. These areas are at extreme risk for flooding and for contracting waterborne diseases like cholera. We sent out a text message reminding clients in Shada II and in all of Cap-Haitien, over 800 in total, to close their household toilet buckets and put them in a high location to avoid fecal contamination.
The SOIL team has also been out in the community, wading through floodwaters that are often higher than knee deep to ensure that we are continuing to provide service to our families in the region. We are communicating with clients and families on the phone and also using a megaphone to reach families in houses and neighborhoods that flooding has made inaccessible to our team.
Even with our many hands pitching in and technology on our side, we need more help. We have consulted with local partners and our regional directors and decided that our emergency response funding will be best used in Cap-Haitien, where we are in a unique position to work with our extensive local network to provide bleach for decontamination, emergency shelter, and supplies for making sure that those most vulnerable are kept safe. Until November 15th all funds raised for emergency response will be directed to SOIL’s flood response in Cap-Haitien.