On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew, as a Category 4 the most powerful storm to hit Haiti in over 60 years, crashed onto the southern coast. Material damage, particularly in the South and Grand’Anse provinces, was quite significant: over 80 percent of structures were severely damaged or destroyed, trees were either felled or stripped of foliage, including staple crops such as breadfruit, and the season’s ground crops were also destroyed, along with many irrigation systems.
For a moment, it seemed as though the lessons learned from Haiti’s “humanitarian aftershocks” were being attempted. Haitian professionals were being interviewed for foreign news stories, for example. Aid agencies also attempted to work with and not around municipal governments.
But then, as foreign attention dwindled, aid slowed to a trickle. In terms of pledges, Hurricane Matthew inspired less than 1% than the earthquake. The real disaster is continuing to unfold, as the South and Grand Anseprovinces were where much of Haiti’s few remaining productive agricultural land – and trees – remain.
Student research assistants from the Faculté d’Ethnologie and I went on a short solidarity visit the end of October. We returned and they stayed in December and conducted a rapid assessment of the humanitarian response.
Below are their reports, supported by a National Science Foundation “RAPID” Grant:
At the 2017 Society for Applied Anthropology colleagues and I participated in a roundtable on Hurricane Matthew. Applied anthropologists Bette Gebrian Magloire, Kaiting Jessica Hsu, and Laura Wagner, all of whom have years and even decades of experience in the Grand Anse, each offered their perspective. Click here for the audio.
A couple of articles have been accepted for publication, with Jessica Hsu, “Humanitarian Aid and Local Power Structures,” and “Glimmers of Another Haiti Following the 2010 Earthquake and Hurricane Matthew,” with Bette Gebrian Magloire and Judy Lewis.