Caritas leads emergency efforts for Haiti

The Chuch’s aid agency Caritas has launched an emergency appeal for Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, with a local priest director of the group describing the impact as “catastrophic”.

As the record storm travelled north from the already impoverished island nation, Fr Fr Jean-Hervé François of Caritas Haiti said: “There have been deaths from drowning and collapsed buildings. Some communities are under water. Many buildings are damaged. People have lost everything.”

Amid battered communities, Caritas has raced to get badly needed aid to people worst affected, liaising with government workers who have opened some 200 hurricane shelters. Working through local parishes, the agency has begun to distribute food and medical supplies as well as blankets and toiletry kits. 

However, such has been the impact of Matthew that Caritas and other agencies are struggling to reach the hard-hit south-western region, with the town of Les Cayes especially affected. 

“The infrastructure is not able to handle so much rain in low-lying area around Les Cayes,” said a spokesperson for Catholic Relief Services. “We’ll have to wait and see how bad the damage is, but flooding is a big concern.”

At the time of writing, an assessment from the north-western town of Jérémie was awaited, with observers predicting great devastation of a region directly in Matthew’s path. Aid agencies now worry about the onset of disease, with much of Haiti’s water supply directly affected by flooding. The same floods have devastated crops which farmers were preparing to harvest.