LOUISVILLE (PNS) Anyone doubting whether climate change exists should pay a visit to Haiti. That’s the assessment from Valery Nodem, the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s international associate, who recently visited the country, nearly eight months after Hurricane Matthew.
The Category 4 hurricane struck the small country on October 4, 2016, packing winds in excess of 145 miles per hour. As many as 1.1 million people were affected by the storm and nearly 600 people are known to have died, but authorities believe the number is likely three times higher. Nationwide, hundreds of homes were destroyed along with roads and businesses.
“Since the hurricane hit, hundreds of people are still waiting for help to come,” said Nodem. “There are a lot of mountains in the region and support agencies cannot reach some of these rural communities by vehicle. They have to park and then walk to the villages.”
Haiti was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when Matthew struck, setting recovery back years.
“More intense and frequent disasters have long been a prediction of climate scientists,” said Rebecca Barnes, coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “Haiti appears to be living this reality, as well as the common understanding that – in climate change – it is communities already suffering from lack of infrastructure or from poverty that will bear the brunt and have the hardest time recovering.”
“Many of the initial agencies that responded to Hurricane Matthew have left the country,” said Nodem. “But just walking and looking around, you can see how devastated the country is. Bridges were destroyed and a lot of buildings, damaged in the storm, are not being rebuilt.”
Nodem says the most devastating thing for him was seeing how hard the people had worked to rebuild and plant crops, only to see the recent rainy season wipe away their progress.
“It’s really hard for them to feel like they are on top of the recovery effort. The normal rain they are having now, any kind of rain, is killing people and it is heartbreaking and devastating,” he said. “The hurricane just happened and the new rain is destroying crops.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with PC(USA) partners in Haiti to provide seeds so farmers can quickly grow beans and vegetables that don’t require a lot of growing time.