Readout of Congresswoman Wilson’s Call with Ambassador Kenneth Merten and Administration Officials on Hurricane Matthew Relief Efforts in Haiti
Miami, FL – Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson on Tuesday, October 5, 2016, spoke by telephone with Kenneth Merten, the U.S. State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti; Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; USAID Haiti Mission director Jene Thomas; Jean Monestime, who sits on the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners; and other stakeholders about Haiti relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
The Florida congresswoman, who represents one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States, expressed concerns about the Category 4 hurricane’s impact on an already fragile nation; ways the American public can contribute to relief efforts; and whether the October 9 election would be postponed.
So far, at least five people have died, and approximately 350,000 people have been displaced from their homes and/or need assistance. It is believed that this number does not include the thousands of people already living in shelters as a result of the earthquake that devastated the nation in 2010.
Konyndyk reported that assessment of the damage is still in the very early stages, but the hurricane hit the southwestern part of Haiti the hardest. It is, however, anticipated that there is the potential for landslides, flooding and road blockage across the nation.
USAID and the Department of Defense are preparing to bring over emergency shelter materials and clean water and sanitation support systems as soon as possible. In addition to mobilizing logistics and airlifts, DOD will help reopen and operate the Port-au-Prince airport, which was battered during the storm. The United Nations also will assist with the recovery and USAID is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control to counteract the potential of a cholera outbreak.
Haitian election officials announced late Wednesday that Sunday’s presidential and legislative elections would indeed be postponed. Although it is understandable that Haitians are currently more concerned about their daily survival and their nation’s recovery, Rep. Wilson stressed the need to reschedule the elections as soon as possible.
“Haiti has experienced too much suffering. The elections are critical to the government’s ability to function, operate as a true democracy, and most important, to rebuild a nation that has woefully struggled to recover from the earthquake,” she said. “We have to make sure they are merely postponed and not cancelled.”
According to Merten, the interim president likely wants to get a full picture of the hurricane’s impact on Haiti’s infrastructure before deciding when to reschedule the elections.
Individuals and organizations wishing to provide assistance are encouraged to make monetary contributions through USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information at www.cidi.org. They may also send donations to organizations they know and trust that are working on the ground in Haiti and know how to make the best use of the money. That way, Konyndyk cautioned, Haiti’s local economy will benefit and its air- and seaports will not struggle as they have in the past with the volume of supplies people send.
Both Merten and Konyndyk predict it will take several days to get a full assessment of conditions in Haiti. Once they have a fuller picture, both Rep. Wilson and Commissioner Monestime plan to visit Haiti to review the damage and recovery efforts.