Hurricane Matthew in Haiti – Switzerland’s contribution

In Haiti Hurricane Matthew has left scenes in its wake that evoke painful memories of the 2010 earthquake. Thousands of people are without water, food and shelter. Switzerland immediately deployed experts to identify requirements and distribute essential supplies.

On Tuesday 4 October 2016, winds exceeding 250km/h battered south-west Haiti, causing major damage and claiming hundreds of lives. The consequent flooding and landslides caused by torrential rain have exacerbated the situation.  Swiss Humanitarian Aid has decided to focus its relief efforts on two areas – drinking water supply and the building of emergency shelters – based on initial evaluations.

Operational base in Port-Salut

Several detachments of experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) have set off for Haiti since Friday 7 October after the reopening of Port-au-Prince airport. These specialists in emergency shelters, water and sanitation, logistics, security and telecommunications worked in shifts to deliver relief to those in need. The rapid response teams set up their operational base in Port-Salut, a town severely hit by the hurricane on the south-west coast of the country. Logistics experts were deployed in the neighbouring Dominican Republic to purchase essential emergency supplies for the devastated regions.

As Haiti is a priority country for the SDC in terms of development cooperation, the emergency operation was able to call upon a number of the cooperation office’s regular staff who are based there.  Staff at the Swiss embassy in Haiti were also mobilised.  The Swiss representation is coordinating the relief effort with the Haitian authorities.

Access to drinking water and emergency shelters

Experts from Swiss Humanitarian Aid have set the following two priorities: the distribution of drinking water – which also contributes to the fight against the spread of cholera – and the provision of shelters for the affected population.

  • In the first month, members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit installed a mobile water treatment unit in Port-Salut capable of supplying 1,600 people per day.

  • In Côteaux, Roche-à-Bateau and Port-Salut they installed drinking water tanks for 13,000 people. They used a water tanker to bring water to an additional 8,700 people. 

  • Support is also being provided for the rehabilitation of four public water supply systems serving a total of 24,000 people.

  • To prevent the spread of cholera, Switzerland sent 40 devices for the production of chlorine (WATA systems) and distributed 290,000 water purification tablets for 55,000 people.

  • 7,750 tarpaulins and almost 3,400 corrugated sheets have been provided, along with tools and fastening materials, enabling nearly 60,000 people to protect themselves from the rain.

  • 200 corrugated sheets were provided to repair the roof of a school, benefiting three classes.

  • In seven localities, residents are asked to help clear access roads and bring in aid in exchange for a small cash income. Using a similar system of payment, local residents have been mobilised to rehabilitate the banks of a river which burst its banks.

Some thirty experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit took part in the emergency operations during the two months following the hurricane. The SDC allocated CHF 3.3 million in emergency aid. This amount includes contributions to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the World Food Programme (WFP). The latter received CHF 1.2 million for its food aid operations in hard-to-reach areas. The WFP also received the support of a Swiss expert to implement a cash aid distribution programme.

Schools stand up to Hurricane Matthew

The SDC's disaster prevention activities in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti have had a direct impact during the current crisis: the schools built on the basis of the standard model developed by the SDC withstood the hurricane. They were also used as shelters for the population during and after the cyclone, which probably saved lives.

Protecting development gains through effective prevention, Article, 13.10.2016

Recovery phase

The SDC plans to continue its post-Matthew operation for about 3-4 months, merging its humanitarian aid with its development aid activities. Support is being provided to local organisations to ensure livelihoods for rural and farming communities who have lost everything.  This includes distributing seeds and livestock. The SDC will also support the authorities in the basic rehabilitation of about ten schools which were partially destroyed by the hurricane. The Swiss embassy in Haiti and its integrated cooperation office are coordinating the implementation of this recovery phase.