Canadian aid being put to good use in Haiti region damaged by hurricane: Bibeau
Residents work to repair a roof after it was ripped away by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (AP / Dieu Nalio Chery)
Vicky Fragasso-Marquis, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:22PM EST
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she's reassured about the management of Canadian humanitarian donations to Haiti following the devastation of hurricane Matthew last month.
She made the comments on Thursday after seeing first-hand the impact of what organizations on the ground are doing as she visited the hurricane-ravaged south of the country.
Bibeau said she was impressed with the co-ordination of humanitarian agencies and their ability to pool resources.
Accompanied by the Canadian Ambassador Paula Caldwell St-Onge, she travelled to the region by helicopter and saw for herself the devastating effects of the storm that claimed more than 1,000 lives in Haiti alone.
She spent the day in Grand'Anse, one of 10 Haitian departments, which includes the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes, where the hurricane made landfall.
Weeks later, mudflows were still visible, several sheet metal roofs were completely destroyed amid uprooted trees.
The canvas and tarpaulin tents that provide shelter for the homeless were still very omnipresent in the hard-hit region.
In the commune of Camp-Perrin, once home to one of the most dense forests in the country, only a few lean trees remained in front of heavily damaged buildings.
It was here that Bibeau came across a school with no roof or walls, where the kids' lessons were held largely outdoors.
The headmistress, Gustave Rose Erna Desert, sighed as she recounted that everyone lost something - the children lost their uniforms, their books, all their equipment.
"We lost all the materials, but God gave us life," she said. "We can rebuild this school again with the help of God."
Bibeau said Canadian aid is helping to buy supplies for students and train teachers to look for signs in children suffering from trauma.
"The kids are there with the teachers, only under a tarp, but still it is important for them to go to school," she said.
In Les Cayes, Bibeau visited a cholera treatment centre and a maternity ward at a local hospital where she talked about births and family planning.
Earlier, the Canadian delegation visited a logistics centre for the United Nations World Food Programme, where rice, peas and oil are stockpiled and delivered to the people.
"It is a good example that Canadian money is well-used because they have a very important focus on effectiveness, and they are sharing infrastructure and logistics," she said.
The programme's director in Haiti said the Canadian government support - regardless of the party in power - has been steady, even when there isn't an urgent catastrophe.
Ronald Tran Ba Huy said the need has been great in Haiti, a poverty ridden country that has been hit by two major natural disasters - the 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew in October, which left a long-term impact, striking a week before the fall harvest.
Although the programme has been able to provide assistance to 520,000 people in the past five weeks, it estimates there are still 800,000 people in urgent need - and reaching them would require US$ 48 million in additional funds.
A report this week by the agency said some 2.1 million Haitians were affected by hurricane, including 894,000 children.
During a roundtable, Bibeau was told by humanitarian workers that some trucks had been hijacked. One group said a large quantity of medications had been taken.
But Bibeau was assured later that such incidents are fairly rare.
While humanitarian assistance will still be needed in the longer-term, she said Canada is eager to build partnerships with whoever is elected during Sunday's elections in Haiti.
"We really look forward to the election because the first thing is to have a reliable counterpart to work with, especially in the education and health sector," Bibeau said.
"It (the election) will be key to doing something more significant, but still, we're working with some trusted partners for a long time in these sectors."