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Being well established in Haiti helped MCC react when latest disaster struck

At the beginning of October, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew, bringing with it 200 km/h winds, pelting rain and destruction.

The Mennonite Central Committee has been in Haiti for decades, lending a hand where they are needed, but when a natural disaster such as last month’s hurricane hits the island, there is much more to do.

Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of MCC Ontario, says the efforts on the part of the aid group have been ongoing since.

They started small, handing out the basics.

“One of the focal points of our response was in a very inexpensive water treatment tablet. They are about three cents apiece,” he shared. “Potable water supplies were put at great risk, one of the first things we did was to try and distribute lots of water-treatment tablets so families could have more confidence in their water sources. Another reality for us there was getting to communities that were hit, but not well responded to.”

When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti early last month, MCC Ontario was already on the island, helping any way they could, with food supplies and water purification kits.[Submitted]
When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti early last month, MCC Ontario was already on the island, helping any way they could, with food supplies and water purification kits. [Submitted]
There are also plenty of long-term effects that MCC is working on mitigating, alongside their Haitian contacts and partnerships.

“There are still some serious long-term vulnerabilities surrounding food security. A major impact of this was loss of crops, loss of seeds, flooding of farmland, just a number of ways in which food production was interrupted pretty seriously. That is not just a food aid response. That is rebuilding resilience and ability to plant crops and so on. It had a huge impact on livelihoods, which is a longer-term response than just getting someone a food kit or an aid kit,” he said. “The impacts of Hurricane Matthew are going to be long and widespread. We are talking about 800,000 people who were affected. We are pleased with the impact that we are able to make, but we understand that the recovery is going to be a long time.”

Rebecca and Paul Shetler Fast are doing the work on behalf of MCC in Haiti right now, and have a local connection. Rebecca is from Waterloo and is a member of the Erb Street Mennonite Church. They are the lead staff couple working in the natural disaster zone.

To give the Shetler Fasts a hand with their work, MCC has changed their response method a little. Instead of taking a reactionary response, the group has a proactive plan.

Drinking water contamination.
Drinking water contamination.

“They had some relief materials prepositioned. That is becoming more of our practice in regions where natural disasters are perhaps more common and where communities are quite vulnerable,” said Cober Bauman.

The last major natural disaster to hit the Caribbean country was a major earthquake in 2010, which heavily damaged the major port in the country’s capital, Port Au Prince. It was difficult to get supplies into the country when they were needed most.

“This way, things are already ready,” he said.

MCC isn’t currently in high-campaign mode for Haiti, but they are always accepting donations to help the Shetler Fast family do a little extra for those who have lost everything.

To donate, visit www.donate.mcc.org and search for the Shetler Fasts in their donation registry.

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