Responding to Hurricane Matthew: Leading in Hurricane Relief Operations in Haiti

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 3:05 PM

Bibiane Sykes, MSN
Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, USA
Jacqueline Cassagnol, MSN
Worldwide Community First Responder, Inc., Nanuet, NY, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to share the experience of a Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) member volunteering in hurricane relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. In 2016, the STTI member with a small group of nurses and humanitarian workers embarked on a journey to the devastated island of Haiti, to intervene in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Located approximately 724 miles off the coast of Miami Florida, the island of Haiti has had a tumultuous past; one marked by natural disasters, political instability, and the rampant spread of infectious diseases. Led by winds at 145 miles per hour, Hurricane Matthew ripped through the southern peninsula of Haiti in the early morning of October 4th, 2016. The region which was underprepared for a hurricane of such magnitude suffered greatly. Thousands were killed and many others were left without food, water or shelter. Furthermore, the unsanitary conditions brought about by the hurricane created an environment conducive to the spread of cholera.

As a global initiative, the STTI member with nursing leaders from the Haitian American Nurses Association of Rockland County Inc., (HANA) teamed up with Rockland County Haiti Relief, another local humanitarian organization. The two associations joined forces and brought medical supplies, food, and water to the ruined regions of southern Haiti. The week-long mission focused on three different cities which were the most affected by the hurricane. Medical care was provided and meals were served to hundreds. Although fully stacked and prepared for the mission, it was soon realized that the time allotted for the mission and the amount of goods in possession would become insufficient. The certainty that not all would be served and that a great number of victims would be deprived of basic human needs was devastating. Nevertheless, the group prevailed by making the best they could out of what they had, which in turn made a real difference in the lives of some that were injured, sick, and undernourished.

The findings and observations revealed that there are so much more to be done. The severity of the situation in developing countries such as Haiti cannot be underestimated or ignored. It is a humanitarian cause that should concern all. Such global initiatives are both emotionally rewarding and essential to mankind.