Elisabeth Augustin, Communication Officer Focal Point Gender / Adolescents at UNICEF Haiti’s office just got back from a mission in the department of Grand ‘Anse. Six months after Matthew’s landfall, it is the first time that Elisabeth visits this area, particularly affected by the hurricane. She shares her feelings with us.
Visiting the South Coast six months after Hurricane Matthew cannot let the idealist that I am, indifferent. My frustration had hitherto been great because the nature of my work had not yet justified my presence in the devastated areas. Only the aerial photographs, the official reports and the testimonies of colleagues contributed to my imagination on the scale of the disaster.
Our majestic south coast is ravaged and its population is still wandering, content with little things that slowly bring it back to a certain normality. The ruined hotels, the coconut cemeteries here and there and the roofs still covered with plastic sheets, do not prevent some inhabitants from resettling themselves on the beaches, the same beaches that have received waves of more than 8 meters…
No doubt, these people are on the lookout for a revival of life or that they are saying to themselves that the Good God will not allow a monster similar to Matthew to return this year.
So, what allow the persons affected by Matthew to rebuild their lives?
The closer you get to the areas where the eye of the cyclone has passed, the more you feel the destruction. Port-à-Piment, a delightful little town still has the roof of the cathedral in shreds, the market is being content to expose timid little lots of commodities and deserted streets, to the point that even families in their Sunday clothes are not visible.
So what allows this population to rebuild? Like this young farmer of twenty-six years old living with 19 other people in a parent’s cottage? Or this widowed 60-year-old who can no longer go about his occupations because of a pain in the knee? Or even this young woman who went through hell the night of October 3rd to 4th 2016 with her eight-month pregnancy belly? Is it the elusive landscape of the beautiful coast, the banana plantations that are nicely reborn? Or simply the toothless, carefree smile of babies, eager for hope?
The children of the south coast will not soon forget the frightful rumblings of the wind and the sea of that dark night. The coconut trees leafless and twisted force them to understand that it was not a bad dream. With a little luck, their innocence will be preserved by the lush nature that surrounds them. That same nature that struck but that seems to be the only thing that will allow the region to be reborn from its ashes.
Focal Point Gender / Youth
This post is also available in: French