I am Julio Forges, an agronomist from Haiti, and currently working at 350PDX as an international fellow for the fall. In Haiti, I work with small farmers through my organization MOPROPS (Mouvement Progressiste Port-Salutain).
Read on for the most recent information about Hurricane Matthew, my response being so far away from my family in Haiti, and ways we can support from Portland.
This week Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, bringing flash floods, destroying homes and knocking out power and phones and this Category 4 storm also wiped out roads and bridges and other critical infrastructure, especially. My local coastline town in the South of Haiti, Les Cayes, is almost destroyed. My parents’ town, Port Salut, received the brunt of the storm, and in some towns in the area, an estimated 80% of the buildings have been destroyed.
Port Salut after Hurricane Matthew
According to the UN this could be the country’s biggest humanitarian crisis since the devastating earthquake in 2010. Officials worry the country’s cholera epidemic could spread because of the flooding and damaged infrastructure. You can see a video here from helicopters surveying the area.
For the first day after the hurricane has hit, I couldn’t reach anyone by phone, because telephone lines and electricity were downed by the storm. I learned that my wife and kids are safe and our house is ok. On day two, my brother finally was able to get to Port Salut, where my parents live. (Many of the roads and bridges have been washed out). My parents’ house is mostly destroyed, and they will move in with my wife and kids. My wife is hosting eight people in our house right now. Part of the office building for my organization in Haiti supporting local farmers is destroyed, and our computers and files joined the mess in the flood like most people’s belongings.
Coastline and roads near Port Salut
The Miami Herald reports, “The Haitian government said that it welcomes international assistance, but unlike the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake — when the international community decided where aid would go, without accounting for where it actually went — the Haitian government will take charge of the reconstruction after Matthew.”
Because of the extent of infrastructure destroyed, it has been difficult so far for assistance to reach people: banks are offline, telephone communication is sparse, and physical travel is still blocked by downed roads, bridges, and flooding.
So how can I help, being so far from my family? Many banks are offline still, and international aid organizations are having trouble reaching their employees on the ground. What seems like such a simple action here in the US (transferring money to a friend can be done through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, and even through Facebook), is turning out to be very complicated with so little infrastructure still standing at home.
We are feeling the effects of climate change now. This week.
I will be transferring money directly to my family to hand out aid and coordinate direct relief while the international aid organizations and government are working on restoring infrastructure. Please consider donating to support us through this time.
How to help right now:
Abnormal emergencies create unusual circumstances. These donation methods are not usually used by 350PDX, but are dictated by the situation.
Option A) Visit paypal.com and hit “Send” to transfer to 350PDX staff member Maya’s US bank account (I don’t have an account here), using her email address email@example.com . She and I will send a wire transfer to be picked up in cash by my family and distributed to the neighborhood as needed.
Option B) Donate to an aid organization. I recommend the Haitian organization Restavek, since they are a local groups already invested in the region and have people on the ground.