Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti with a force that Emilien had not seen before in his 79 years.
Emilien’s father had been a fisherman. He died in 1954. At the age of 17, Emilien was forced to leave school and start fishing to support his family.
He lives very close to the sea in Roche-a-Bateau, a community of approximately 25,000 people on Haiti’s southern shore.
The devastation of Hurricane Matthew is apparent from the moment the town comes into view from the road that winds along the shore. As one enters the town it is impossible to ignore. Trees are lying on the ground, a shipping container hangs on its side over the beach by the road, houses with various degrees of damage are everywhere, and a few coffins are visible on front porches. Emilien did not know the storm was coming. He was completely unprepared for the strength of the winds and the waves. He spent the night trembling in fear, afraid he was going to die. His life was spared, but his home and his livelihood were not. His small seaside house was completely destroyed. His fishing equipment was also lost.
His community leader has given him a place in his own house, which was also damaged.
Other fishermen in the community have suffered just as much. Their houses, boats, fishing pots, and nets have also been swept away. One of Emilien’s grandsons lost 46 goats. Others have lost entire crops of bananas, plantains, coconuts, and breadfruits. Banana trees can mature in as little as six months. For other trees, it will be years before they begin to bear fruit again.
Many in this local community fear that the aftermath of the storm will be just as devastating. They fear that the destruction of the crops and fruits will mean hunger for their families. They fear that their water sources are now contaminated with bacteria which will make them sick. They fear a cholera outbreak that could kill thousands. They fear that it will be decades before the island has fully recovered from the impact of one fateful storm.
Emilien is now living on his savings and the kindness of his neighbours. He hopes that some gracious people will send him back to the sea so he can once again support himself and his family.
The ADRA network was monitoring Hurricane Matthew for days before it hit Haiti. Once the scale of the devastation was suspected an emergency response team was deployed.
Unable to immediately reach Port au Prince because the Haitian airports were closed, they flew instead to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and drove overland to Port au Prince.
Within days of the storm, ADRA began distributions of emergency food and hygiene items to communities in the Les Cayes area, which encompasses Emilien’s community.
ADRA also partnered with GlobalMedic, who specializes in water, sanitation, and hygiene responses in disaster situations. They were able to install community water filters, as well as distribute household water filters and aquatabs, to ensure that affected families have access to clean water for all their needs to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.
ADRA’s response will encompass further assistance initiatives, including shelter repair and livelihood restoration, to help the Haitian people to recover.
We thank you, our generous supporters, for your help in giving emergency relief to the survivors of this tragic event. You are truly saving lives!