On October 5, 2016 Hurricane Matthew touched down in Haiti’s southwestern region and served a devastating blow to the country. Hurricane Matthew was classified as a Category 5 hurricane with highest recorded wind speeds at 160 miles per hour. In addition to high wind speeds, torrential rain flooded the island nation and caused several mudslides, as well as the complete destruction of thousands of homes and buildings. What it left in its wake is being considered Haiti’s worst humanitarian crisis since the earthquake in 2010 which the country is still struggling to recover from. Many Haitians live in tents or ramshackle houses as a result of the country’s shaky financial situation that hasn’t allowed it to successfully recover from the destruction. Though an exact death toll remains unclear, casualties number in the 900s and numbers continue to rise as flood waters recede.
Property damage numbers in the thousands, and no building made it out of the storm with an attached roof. Haiti’s southern region suffered the most damage, including the complete destruction of the bridge connecting Port-au-Prince to the Southern Peninsula. In addition to the bridge’s collapse, road access for emergency responders was completely cut off by fallen trees and debris. This isolated the victims who are struggling to find fresh water and food worthy of consumption.
The flooding has threatened a cholera outbreak in the country which would undoubtedly increase the already heartbreaking loss of life the country has suffered. 3 cases have already been reported following the hurricane.
Despite Haiti’s isolation as a result of the storm, international relief efforts are in full force. The United Nations has been hard at work clearing debris and bringing in heavy machinery like bulldozers and earthmovers to expedite the cleanup process, as well as contributing to rebuilding and rescue efforts. The United States sent three ships, two being an aircraft carrier and hospital ship and 300 marines.
In addition to economic and environmental obstacles, Haiti is in the midst of political crisis. The country has not had a president since February, and several rounds of elections have been postponed due the potential of violent outbreak. A misuse of public funds and lack of a president have caused a decline in public services and infrastructure, and other fundamental government responsibilities like the justice system and police force.