Haitians Seek Shelter in Mountain Caves Six Months after Hurricane Matthew

08 April, 2017

Roland Despeines looks for shelter inside a mountain cave when heavy rains fall in southwestern Haiti.

Despeines and many other Haitians have been taking shelter from storms in the cave since October 4. On that day, Hurricane Matthew destroyed their homes and changed their lives.

Food for the Poor is an aid group in the American state of Florida. Last month, its workers found that 240 people were spending nights in two caves.

The workers were searching for land to plant food crops, the aid group said. It called the situation a humanitarian crisis. The group said the cave dwellers included 84 women and 62 children.

"Whenever the rain is about to fall, all of us come to stay here," Roland Despeines said. A VOA reporter visited the cave in late March and saw kerosene lamps and sheets made from tree leaves.

Prezidan Jovenel Moise ak Premye Minis JAck Guy Lafontant nan Jeremi, vandredi 31 mas 2017.
Prezidan Jovenel Moise ak Premye Minis JAck Guy Lafontant nan Jeremi, vandredi 31 mas 2017.

Jovenel Moïse is Haiti's new president. He and Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant also visited the caves at the end of March. They have promised to provide food and shelter.

The United Nations has reported that at least 70 percent of crops were destroyed in one area – the department of Grand'Anse.

"The children are crying all the time because they are hungry," Despeines said. " ... When a vehicle comes to the area, the people run after it," hoping for food, he added. "If a car brings a bag of rice, we cook it right away, and it isn't enough to feed all of us."

A young woman named Bernie Josee also spoke about the problem of hunger. "Sometimes, visitors come to this area and they bring us food," she said. "But this week, we have nothing to eat."

Some people were so hungry that they were eating poisonous plants, The Miami Herald recently reported.

Government workers and aid groups have provided food such as rice and beans to the Haitians. A low-cost government-operated restaurant is planned. And, Moïse has ordered plans to build new homes.

The United States Agency for International Development provided emergency supplies such as plastic coverings after Hurricane Matthew hit. Also, it partnered with a local organization to pay workers for home repairs.

After the hurricane, the U.N. Development Program asked for $138 million in aid for Haiti. The agency has made two-thirds of its financial goal.

I'm Alice Bryant.

VOA's Creole Service reported on this story. Alice Bryant adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cave - n. a large hole that was formed by natural processes in the side of a cliff or hill or under the ground

kerosene - n. a type of oil that is burned as a fuel — often used before another noun

sheet - n. a large piece of cloth that is used to cover something

dweller - n. someone who lives or stays in a special or particular place

hurricane - n. an extremely powerful and destructive rainstorm with very strong winds