Sunday, September 21, 2008

Joining Relief Efforts To Aid Storm-Hit Haiti

Gonaives, Haiti---(FOR GALLERY) Residents of this flooded town deal with the aftermath of several storms/hurricanes including tropical storm Hanna... PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD

Haiti is no stranger to tragedy, but being ravaged by four consecutive major storms in a month is more than the long-suffering Caribbean country - or any country for that matter - can or should withstand.

"It is as if Katrina had pounded the whole U.S.," said Jane Franklin, a New York writer, talking about the two Category 4 hurricanes that devastated Cuba. She could've been referring to Haiti.

Haitians in New York, who number about 300,000, immediately mobilized to help.

"For me this tragedy is very overwhelming," said a distressed Ninaj Raoul, founder and executive director of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR). "The community here in New York is overwhelmed too. I mean, four storms in a row in a country that was already suffering from a food crisis? It's just too much."

HWHR joined forces with Lakou New York, another group with a solid tradition of helping their community in New York and the people of Haiti in times of crisis.

They had worked together before on projects such as flood disaster relief for Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2004. This time their task is a titanic one.

Since the middle of August, Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike battered Haiti, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 1,000 people dead. And, as Raoul noted, this year's hurricane season is not over yet.

"As in 2004, Gonaives became a muddy lake that trapped more than 250,000 people in a deathly grip," wrote Jocelyn McCalla, a Haitian-American community leader in New York. "Other areas to the south and north of the historic anchor - Gonaives is the city where Haiti was formally born as an independent nation - suffered greatly as well."

The once-fertile Artibonite valley was devastated and crops ruined when a huge hydroelectric dam broke. "The danger of epidemics is a big one," Raoul said. "We want to start a water purification effort in the Mapou region."

Never having fully recovered from the hurricanes of 2004, the southeastern agricultural region of Mapou was flooded again last month.

Clearly Haiti's battle to feed its people, avoid epidemics and reorganize as a functioning country is an uphill one. It has received some international assistance, but it needs much more.

And that is why HWHR and Lakou New York are appealing for your solidarity. HWHR is sending two members to Mapou to bring initial aid and assess the needs first-hand.

They are also collecting medical supplies to support the members of the Cuban Medical Brigade based in the coastal city of Jacmel, who were left completely isolated by the storms. They are the sole health providers for thousands of impoverished Haitians.

HWHR is asking New York Haitian-Americans to take the lead in helping their native country. But it is also hoping for the support of all New Yorkers.

"Reading the news accounts one could almost smell the stench, feel the horror and the despair, and the weight of a country that is certain to wither away without a Herculean effort by its citizens and international allies," McCalla said.

If you want to help, HWHR is asking for such items as dry foods, first aid supplies, personal hygiene goods, tea-light candles and batteries. No clothing except new underwear is needed.

You can also write a check to IFCO/ Haitian Relief, 418 W. 145th St., New York, N.Y. 10031. Donations are tax deductible.

The HWHR office at 335 Maple St., 2nd Fl., Brooklyn, will be open to receive donations Monday and Wednesday from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. More information at (718) 735-4660 or

Source: NyDailyNews.Com

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