Hurricane Irma stormed Haiti on the evening of 7 September 2017 and continued into the early hours of 8 September and the floods it caused devastated many Haitian families, wreaking havoc on their homes and belongings. Nelta Joachin from Malfety, which is located in the north of Haiti, was just one of those affected, and she was left quite disillusioned. Malfety was the hardest hit community in the Fort-Liberté area, where about 350 houses were flooded. But thanks to the your support, Nelta is just one of many mothers in the area who benefited from relief items which were distributed by the Red Cross in the days following the disaster. But the reason the Red Cross was able to help at all was thanks to your support in 2017, because when the time came to save lives, the Red Cross was ready.


The Red Cross maintains a stock of equipment and supplies in Panama and was therefore able to provide shelter, food, water, and medical care just after Hurricane Irma hit. Donations to the Irish Red Cross for Irma/Haiti were specifically put towards the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF). This fund assisted 5,000 victims of the hurricane as it helped to finance 2,000 tarpaulins, 2,000 jerry cans and 1,000 hygiene kits. The hygiene kits in particular were crucial as cholera was a constant threat in Haiti due to flooded toilets.


Furthermore, several teams of Haitian Red Cross volunteers were pre-positioned in strategic places around the island prior to the arrival of the hurricane. This meant that in the immediate aftermath of Irma, they were able to carry out rapid assessments of the needs on the ground. Donations to the Irish Red Cross helped provide these volunteers with protective gear such as rubber boots, raincoats and flashlights.

At the time, representatives of the Northern regional branch of the Haitian Red Cross noted “the needs are so great that people are rushing to the smallest distribution of any kind. You should have seen the incredible crowd that recently generated a distribution of small doses of detergent.”


“The water had risen to almost two metres and took everything away, even the savings that the families kept in their houses” recalls Florestal Michelangelo, President of the Northern Regional branch of the Haitian Red Cross. Women in Haiti make their family incomes from the raising of goats and hogs and from small food businesses financed through loans taken from microfinance organisations. Without insurance coverage to revive their businesses destroyed by floods, these families are forced to take out new loans hoping to repay the previous ones. This means they find themselves in even more debt than they were previously. “I feel like I’m going to lose my head because there are so many problems,” says Evna Monceus, a resident of Malfety.


Irma hit these areas in the back-to-school week, when most parents were still struggling to find ways to pay the entrance fees and buy the necessary supplies for their children. Despite their difficulties, residents of Haiti affected by Irma recognise in the Red Cross “an organisation always present at their side in difficult times.”


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