Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Monday, July 19, 2010

Torrential Downpours Flood Artibonite Valley

Five years ago on this date, a short but powerful rain created a flood which rushed down the Les Forges ravine and washed out the Deschapelles market and most of the houses below the bridge which leads to L'Escale, a residential village belonging to HAS.

On Sunday, in the late afternoon, a similar rain created a flood of the same magnitude. Trees are piled up around the houses below the canal, cars and motorcycles are covered with mud, and the interiors of many houses are flooded to a height of about 3-4 feet.

By Sunday evening, it was still raining, and the floods had receded, but it was impossible to walk very far without slipping in the mud and tripping over trees and branches. Thus far, there are no reports of physical injuries or losses, but we can see a substantial impact on the residences, courtyards and fields of food crops. Also, we have not heard from the upland communities, which will have endured the same rains.

Our extended family here at HAS has suffered losses. Manite, employed at HAS since the very early days, found her house was flooded to the height of her waist, washing away many of her treasured herbal plants. Another long-time HAS employee, Tyranie, also lives in that lacour, a small cluster of homes, and her house was flooded as well. The children from that lacour were brought over here to my house, and we had a bit of a camp party there with hot chocolate and blankets.... Fortunately, guests left yesterday, so we have space for the temporary visitors.

In Haiti, we live very close to nature, and its vagaries impose themselves without warning or selection. But the poor suffer more, because they are less well protected, and the margins on which their lives are led are so narrow. The miracle is the resilience of Haitian people, and their ability to carry on in the face of disaster, and to be able to visualize a better situation even in the face of disaster.

Our role is clear; to be considerate and concerned, to share resources as they may be available, but to share with them the experience of loss and also of recovery, hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder.

This incident may not be carried on your national or regional TV shows; the media who were here last week to mark the 6-month anniversary of the earthquake left before this new challenge emerged. Our son Edward came back from Port au Prince yesterday evening along the coastal road, and he reports that the devastation is remarkable all along the road, with flooded rivers and mudslides down from the steep mountains, and people wandering out to and into the road in a state of shock. Today will bring a broader perspective, one of loss and disaster, but ultimately of perseverance and hope.

Ian Rawson
Managing Director