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A man makes his way in a flooded area of Haiti. Ben Depp

A man makes his way in a flooded area of Haiti. Ben Depp

MCC responds to hurricane destruction in the Caribbean

Cathryn Clinton
September 12, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is working with a partner organization, Sant Kretyen Developman Entegre (Christian Center for Integrated Development, known as SKDE), to provide water, food, medicines and temporary housing for people in Haiti who are affected by the damage and flooding from the recent  hurricanes, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike.

Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is especially vulnerable to the effects of storms, particularly in multiple succession. And now, the earliest information from Haitian authorities reports hundreds of deaths, even as they acknowledge that they haven't reached many areas of the country. All 10 districts in Haiti were affected by the hurricanes.

People stranded on rooftops clung to one another as they watched their crops being ruined and their livestock dying. Because their homes had already washed away, others waded the flooded streets, holding their belongings on their heads, while clutching the hands of their children.

With bridges collapsed and thick, muddy roads impassable, finding food and drinkable water is nearly impossible. The flooding has affected the existing water systems, making them unsafe.

In 2004, Hurricane Jeanne destroyed Gonaïves, killing 3,000, and this same northwestern port city was hit again this year. It is in a flood plain that quickly fills because much of the forest has been chopped down and used for fuel, allowing the water to rush down the mountains. MCC partner SKDE reports that several of its agricultural cooperatives in the area were destroyed.

MCC's initial emergency commitment is for $35,000. SKDE's initial assessment is that 1,000 people in their cooperatives are in desperate need. There are plans to reach these people with packages of food, water and medicine.

The government is working on repairing roads, so it is hoped that MCC personnel Michel Garly, Guylene Hyacinthe, who is helping to coordinate the response, Margot de Greef and Ben Depp will reach the area by Friday, where SKDE can distribute the needed supplies.

The medicine will be used to treat 200 persons for infectious diseases. In addition, temporary housing will be found for 10 families.

David Martin, MCC material resources manager, confirmed there is a scheduled container going to Haiti with a Sept. 28 load date. This was going to be school kits and canned meat, but it will now include some health kits for flood victims. There might be some resources going from the Puerto Rico Material Resources Center as well.

Mark Epp, associate director for Latin America and the Caribbean, says that more requests are coming in as staff continue to assess the conditions and receive reports from many areas.

Donations to MCC should be designated, "International Hurricanes" and may be made online at mcc.org/donate or at any MCC office.