Update: At press time the death toll in Haiti had been put at 877 and counting as the impact of Hurricane Mathew continues to unfold.
It’s rather sad that we have come to equate Haiti more with disasters, both natural and man-made, and not enough with the pivotal role it has played in the annals of history, especially man’s thirst for freedom, dignity, and throwing off the shackles of slavery.
But the latter is another story for another day, as today we once again focus on Haiti being hit by yet another natural disaster.
Hurricane Matthew which slammed into parts of Haiti on Tuesday as a Category Four storm has been rated as the most powerful storm in the Caribbean for the past decade.
Now, this battered and bruised - but still not broken - country will have to somehow find the fortitude to pick itself up. Somehow. Again.
It won’t be easy.
Hurricane Matthew has pummelled Haiti; further battered its woefully dilapidated infrastructure, taken lives, and added to the relentless pounding of its fragile economy.
And while it churns its way towards the Cuba, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, Florida, the Carolinas and wherever else it’s guided by atmospheric forces to wreak havoc and destruction, Haiti is now left to count the cost of yet another setback to its unending quest of shaking off the stigma of being ‘ the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere’.
Haiti’s very fragile infrastructure makes it more vulnerable to storm impact – both wind and rain.
Deforestation has also meant that its prone to devastating flooding.
And that further complicates efforts to provide relief even after the storm has passed.
Already, there are news reports of emergency relief teams finding it extremely difficult to reach areas pounded by the hurricane as flooding and mudslides have washed away roads and bridges as Matthew carved a swathe of destruction across the western tip of the country before cutting its arc of destruction across neighbouring islands on its deadly northward trek.
Within Haiti, it will take some time before the full extent Matthew’s trial of destruction is known.
Many areas have been cut off without any access possible. Communication systems are also down.
To speak of returning to normal is almost futile considering what 'normal' means to the majority of Haitians.
There are already reports of possibly thousands being made homeless again as unstable homes and shanty towns were not expected to withstand the force of the hurricane’s winds and rain.
That situation would be further compounded by the fact that thousands more were still living in tents and other temporary housing since the 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people.
Emergency recovery and re-housing are only the tips of the iceberg that Haiti faces once more after yet another natural disaster.
An equally major challenge would be healthcare delivery and preventing the spread of diseases.
The extent of the damage and destruction would have worsened as the hurricane is reported to have almost stalled over Haiti dumping torrential rainfall and lashing it with winds of over 100 miles an hour.
But the robust and resilient Haitian population has already started cleaning-up, best they could according to news reports.
And while that would be the norm, post-disaster in any country, it’s more of an immediate priority for Haitians.
When you are already the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, a label that Haiti has found almost impossible to shake-off, there’s no time to waste in picking yourself up so that you can face whatever next disaster – natural or man-made – could be headed your way next.
If you don’t the next crisis, no matter how small by comparison could just make an already bad situation, so much worse.
International aid said to be already on its way to Haiti with emphasis on providing shelter, clean water and medical support.
By Michael L. Jarvis London UK