Haiti: help after Hurricane Sandy

Emergency aid is being provided for people in Haiti whose lives and livelihoods were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. After the tropical storm which killed 54 people and left more than 200,000 homeless, survivors immediately began asking the Church for help after crops were ruined and livestock killed.

In response to an urgent plea from Bishop Joseph Gontrand Décoste of Jérémie, south-west Haiti, Aid to the Church in Need announced humanitarian aid to help stem the crisis. It comes alongside assistance to repair chapels and other Church structures.

Bishop Décoste said: “Hurricane Sandy destroyed 70 percent of the crops in the Diocese of Jérémie and caused heavy losses of livestock. The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in the fields and orchards left many farmers fearing a food shortage.”

Aid to the Church in Need’s aid, including seed and cattle, is intended to help people get back on their feet after the latest disaster. It is unusual for the charity to provide purely humanitarian aid. Rafael D’Aqui, Head of Aid to the Church in Need’s Latin America section explained why the decision had been taken. He said: “This assistance is for those who are now completely without the most basic provisions. As a rule our charity mainly promotes… pastoral initiatives which strengthen people’s faith and motivate them to help others.”

He added that the current aid package was designed to show solidarity with those who had been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Mr D’Aqui said: “It’s not only about financial aid, but about not leaving the people in these countries to fend for themselves in their suffering.”

Bishop Décoste also warned that disease could spread following the latest natural tragedy. He said: “We also fear a recurrence of the cholera epidemic.”

Since 2010 at least 600,000 people in the country have suffered from cholera, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,400 Haitians.

The Director of Care Haiti, Jean-Michel Vigreux said: “The heavy rainfall caused wells and latrines to overflow, which encourages the spread of disease.”

Numerous churches and chapels were also destroyed – these were not only used for religious purposes, but also as community centres, meeting rooms and schools. Aid to the Church in Need’s €20,000 (£16,000) emergency aid package also includes help for Cuba, which was also hit by the hurricane.

Speaking to the charity, Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibáñez of Santiago de Cuba described the havoc in Cuba. He said: “We are in a dramatic situation, in the midst of devastation. Beyond the human injuries caused, tens of thousands of people have lost their homes. 85 percent of the churches in the city will have to be repaired.”

Mr D’Aqui said: “It’s not only in the USA that people are suffering from the consequences of the storm. In Haiti and Cuba many poor and destitute people have now been hit once again. We mustn’t forget Cuba and Haiti.”

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