As you might have seen on the news, it’s been a busy couple of weeks in Haiti, which accounts for my lack of blogging. Yesterday morning I slept until 11.30am and woke up amazed I had slept so long … but when I left my room and found the front door closed, and the generator off, I realised that I was the first person awake! It has been a hard time, and it’s not over yet. We are still responding the hurricane and the cholera epidemic is heading towards us; with everyones attention focussed on hurricane Tomas, the cholera took the opportunity to thrive and spread.
We watched the hurricane for more than a week before it arrived. It was quite the tease, first of all being a tropical storm and we all breathed easy, then upgrading to category 3 and we were all put on edge again, and so it went on. Then it was heading away from us, then back towards us ….. Tomas certainly liked to keep us guessing. Meanwhile, we had to prepare. I seemed to be in endless co-ordination meetings with the UN and other Agencies, be it about cholera or hurricane preparedness. My base manager took the reins on preparing our compounds for the onslaught, and we prepared to hunker down and ride it out. And then it arrived. And I pretty much slept through it. We went to bed on Thursday night and when we woke up, the worst had gone by.
It was like a wet day in Yorkshire on Friday, and where we were in the lowlands, it was earily calm. [In the mountains it was a different story, but we were all down here]. The temperature was lovely, cool enough to wear jeans and trainers, sleep under a sheet and drink endless cups of tea (not there is ever a wrong temperature for drinking endless cups of tea, but you get my meaning). If it wasn’t for the devastation caused elsewhere, I would say that hurricanes were quite enjoyable.
On Saturday morning we woke up and headed out in teams to assess our projects areas. It is obvious that the mountain regions have lost some agricultre, specifically bean crops and banana trees. The people up there are really very concerned and think the loss is catastrophic and complete; in reality we estimate maybe a 30% harvest loss this winter season (the main growing season starts in March). The UN have started a full scale assessment this week to find out the reality, and make suggestions. Some people have lost their tents and roofs and we are taking names now so that we can assista with plastic sheetings and new tents. In the river, lowlands areas we saw the most damage. Severe flooding had caused many houses to be washed through with water and mud slides, displacing families until the rivers go down. Even today they are high, and we are not able to access some of our working areas.
But, even with all this, I give thanks to God, because it is far from as bad as it could have been. There were no deaths or injuries in our area, and although there have been some families suffer with damamge to their shelter, no-one has found their home totally destroyed. The agriculture loss is a concern, but not an immidiate problem, and something we have time to respond to. No-one is starving, no-one is hurt, and that’s about as good as it gets after a natural disaster. By the time it passe dby Haiti, Tomas was not even categorised as a hurricane, for which I am very grateful to God, and credit to the power of prayer. The Haitian people have suffered an earthqauke and a cholera epidemic this year already, and they are exhausted from living in a state of emergency. So are we! I haven’t been this tired in a long time, and have already started counting down to my Christmas break (5 weeks and 1 day to go :-)).
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for Haiti, and for Tearfunds work, and for me, as you have seen everything happening on the news. Continue to pray for the cholera epidemic -it seems it has been discovered in Port au Prince today, so it’s heading this way, and if it’s in the capital city, then there is such a high risk of huge numbers of casualties. The hurricane took our focus off this deadly and fast spreading diseise …. we need to get it back in our sights, and fight. I am not sure where the energy is going to come form, but I’m sure I must have some reserves somewhere.