The location of Gonaives, Haiti is both a blessing and a curse. Situated on a floodplain, it has rich agricultural potential but is under constant threat of flooding, which is aggravated by extreme deforestation.
Water rushes over riverbanks down the bare surrounding mountains, and even with light rain, mud often settles in the port city. When hurricane season hits, people’s livelihoods are washed away, exacerbating the plight of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. As the water subsides, mud is left in homes, schools and churches, bringing everyday life to a halt.
Tropical storm Jeanne struck in 2004, causing 3,000 deaths and massive destruction. Gonaives residents were still recovering when four tropical storms and hurricanes pummeled Haiti in 2008. Fay’s flash floods swept away a bus full of passengers.
Gustav’s force caused landslides that damaged roughly 900 homes. Hanna hit a week later and caused 529 deaths. Days afterwards, Ike smashed into the already waterlogged country and killed 74 more people. The collective damage affected more than 825,000 Haitians, leaving approximately 800 dead and 300 missing. Learn more about immigration online!
These storms washed several feet of mud into most homes, creating unlivable conditions. Roads from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to Gonaives were completely flooded; aid organizations faced difficulty in reaching survivors. As the water slowly receded, the city remained buried by 3 million cubic meters of mud.
Without the necessary resources to clear their houses, entire neighborhoods were forced to abandon everything. Hands On Disaster Response (HODR) worked to combat this problem. Established in 2005, this organization deploys assistance to address the initial destruction communities face after hurricanes and other natural disasters strike. HODR has worked with communities in locations worldwide including Thailand, Bangladesh, Peru and the United States.