Written by Paul Clammer
On 4 October 2016, southwest Haiti was hit by the category 4 Hurricane Matthew. It was the first hurricane to make landfall in Haiti for 60 years, and the furious impact of its 120km/hour winds were spread over the entire peninsula, far from Tiburon where it first came ashore.
The whole of the south coast was seriously affected from Côtes-de-Fer to Les Cayes, along to Port Salut and Port-à-Piment, and the whole of Grand Anse. As many as 80% of all structures in Jérémie were severely damaged, with the damage hardly less in other towns and cities. Les Cayes was severely flooded, and bridges and other infrastructure were washed away. Trees were uprooted and harvests lost. Grand Anse – an area largely self-sufficient in food – suffered up to 100% crop loss. This impact was particularly devastating as 2016 finally saw the end of the years-long drought that had bedevilled Haitian farmers. Asmany as 1,000 people lost their lives, and cases of cholera spiked in the aftermath of the storm. The already-postponed presidential election, due to be held the week after Matthew, was put on hold again.
In the short term, the massive infrastructure damage is likely to present challenges to visitors to southwest Haiti, and visitors should be prepared to alter their plans as necessary. Don’t put off your trip entirely, though. The rest of the country – Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and the whole of the centre and north including Cap-Haïtien – are open to receive visitors as normal. Travelling to Haiti, spending money locally, and experiencing Haiti’s extraordinarily rich culture all remain positive actions to take while the southwest struggles to get back on its feet.