A week after Hurricane Matthew, those in remote Haiti anxiously await aid

Looking out from a jetty at the Port of Les Cayes in Haiti, the Caribbean Sea is turquoise and typically calm. On shore, though, where 50 or so local men are gathered awaiting aid, it’s anything but tranquil.

After an estimated 1,000 people were killed by Category 4 storm, rural areas wait for help

A man stares out over the Caribbean Sea from the port in Les Cayes, Haiti, on the lookout for a ship full of aid slated to arrive today. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

Looking out from a jetty at the Port of Les Cayes in Haiti, the Caribbean Sea is turquoise and the seascape typically calm. On shore, though, where 50 or so local men are gathered, it's anything but tranquil. 

The men are on the lookout after hearing that a ship full of aid was coming in today. They all want some of the arriving supplies — though they likely won't receive any.

"The boats coming in here will have a lot of aid that we won't even get to see," said Nicolas Sylviase, 48, who lives in Les Cayes and earns some money running his moto taxi.

He's referring to the way the aid comes into Les Cayes, located on Haiti's southern coast, and then gets trucked out to areas that were pounded even worse than this town when Hurricane Matthew made landfall about a week ago.

"I need some help for me and my family," the Sylviase said. "My house is broken down. The top of the roof was blown off. And we ain't got no place to sleep."

Nicolas Sylviase, 48, lives in Les Cayes and makes his living by driving a moto taxi. The roof of his home was blown off in Hurricane Matthew last week, when the Category 4 storm made landfall on Haiti's south coast. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

It's particularly bad when it rains, as it did last night.

An estimated 1,000 people were killed when the Category 4 storm slammed into Haiti, and thousands more were left homeless. Devastated corners of the country are also facing a public health crisis as cholera spreads through rural communities lacking clean water, food and shelter.

United Nations officials have said at least 1.4 million people across the region need assistance and that 2.1 million overall have been affected by the hurricane. Some 175,000 people remain in shelters.

At the UN compound in Les Cayes, various aid agencies are trying their best to co-ordinate the complicated logistics of getting food, water and medical supplies to those who need it.

An estimated 25 aid trucks organized by the International Organization of Migration were slated to arrive here today.
Edmondo Perrone is a logistics co-ordinator with the World Food Program, responsible for the south region of Haiti. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)

"Access is one of the main issues," said Edmondo Perrone, the World Food Program logistics co-ordinator for the South Region of Haiti, noting that the conditions of the roads were difficult even before the storm hit.

Helicopters and boats are the best solutions for many of the smaller coastal towns — some of which have yet to receive any aid.

Security is another critically important issue, said Perrone. Two of the World Food Program's trucks were hijacked two days ago, on the road to Port Salut, as people have become more desperate and angry.

But when asked directly what happened to those two aid trucks, Perrone replied, "I prefer not to talk about that." 

Back at the port, the anger is palpable.

"We are living a dangerous life right now," said Antoine Asvelte Cator, another man who had come down to wait for aid to arrive. He lives in the neighbouring town of Torbeck, which he said is particularly in need of medical relief.

While there are those desperate to help themselves, there are also many with a generous spirit, such as Deiou Sensan.

"We need help," he said. "But there are people who need more help than me."

Debris is scattered along the shoreline of Les Cayes, nearly a week after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, leaving an estimated 1,000 people dead and thousands more homeless. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC)


Sylvia Thomson is a producer with the CBC in Toronto. She spent several years as a producer covering politics in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa and has covered major international stories.