The fiercest Caribbean storm in a decade, Hurricane Matthew, tore through the region and lashed into Haiti on October 4, 2016. The category 4 storm – Haiti’s strongest in 50 years – took its toll on vulnerable communities where over 70% of the population was already living in poverty, and ravaged Haiti’s fragile southwestern corridor. Winds up to 235 km/h and rainfall of over 200 mm destroyed homes, livelihoods, and tore apart families. Tens of thousands of people suffered, particularly those in areas where relief came slowly or not at all, with the double threat of cholera and hunger looming large.
Fuel Relief Fund First Response Team partnered with national and local fuel providers (including Petrogaz, Haiti) in Haiti to ensure fuel quickly reached the hands of those who need it most. Our First Response team targeted (a) individuals and families in the hardest hit areas; (b) first responders and critical community infrastructure (i.e. hospitals and police stations); and (c) relief partners such as the World Food Programme and the Red Cross that reach large numbers of people in need. Fuel was a lifeline for first responders and critical community infrastructure including hospitals, medical clinics, and police stations. Without a source of fuel, emergency services can come to a halt – which was the case in many areas of Grand Anse and Sud departments where destruction was the worst.
Ted Honcharik, FRF’s founder and First Response Team Leader, summarized his experience from Les Cayes:
"I am writing this to you from Haiti, where I am in Les Cayes distributing fuel, the middle of one of the areas destroyed by Hurricane Matthew I just left the Immaculate Conception Hospital where doctors and medical staff were operating in darkness when we arrived some hours ago, with only the light of a candle. We provided them with fuel, and by the time we left, the generators were running again, and they now have enough fuel to run for at least two weeks until the local commercial suppliers are back in business. I can't tell you how good that feels and how shocking it was to walk inside a dark hospital. Like you may be, I am a businessman that delivers fuel to families all over the United States. Accessing and providing fuel is what I and my colleagues do every day, and sometimes I take the basics for granted - the lights go on, my trucks are running, my family is warm and safe. Here in Haiti, I am reminded of the fragility of life, and yet the power of connection, what a little can do to change a life. It's hard to believe that several hundred dollars would impact several hundred people's lives – even save that many lives! But it's true. I know because I am here with our volunteer first responders. Brave doctors keep going no matter what. With fuel, they can do their work with the power on. Children and the elderly can stay safer in shelters with the lights on. Families can stay warm through the night, and boil water to avoid cholera. Your partnership with us to deliver this fuel makes all this possible…. Thank you!"
"We were able to reach communities in remote areas that had not received any aid… Everywhere we go, there was darkness, and the fuel we provided brought light, and a smile to the faces of people living through their worst moments."