By Elliott Wright*
Atlanta, Georgia, October 7, 2016 — The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) acted quickly in response to the destruction and death caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, notably in Haiti.
The provision of emergency supplies, food, health kits, and other assistance builds on UMCOR’s sustained presence in Haiti, work that has continued since the disastrous earthquake in January 2010. More than 500 deaths in Haiti have been attributed to Hurricane Matthew, with the greatest loss and storm damage in the southern region.
Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, the parent organization to UMCOR, assured Bishop Gesner Paul, leader of the Methodist Church of Haiti (Eglise Méthodiste d’Haïti (EMH), of both the prayers and the assistance of United Methodists as the island undergoes yet another disaster.
Bishop Paul and other contacts in Haiti reported on October 7 that a full assessment of the damage by Matthew was not yet possible because of the difficulties with communications and transportation.
The Rev. Jack Amick, senior director for disaster response at UMCOR, said the response will begin with the emergency supplies, a water purification program done in partnership with GlobalMedic, and an additional food-distribution program through the Haitian church. UMCOR has long collaborated with both GlobalMedic and the church. The initial financial outlay by UMCOR will exceed $150,000. “We are fortunate to already have an UMCOR staff on the ground in Haiti,” Amick said. UMCOR is the United Methodist humanitarian relief and assistance agency.
Donations in response to Hurricane Matthew can be made to either UMCOR’s international relief fund (Advance #982450) or the U.S. Disaster (Advance #901670).
UMCOR will also assist Bahamas Methodist Habitat with a grant in response to Matthew’s damage to that part of the Caribbean.
“These are initial responses,” Amick stated. “We will work with the Methodist Church of Haiti in considering more long-range programs there.” The church is a district of the autonomous Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas.
Amick said that one of the major needs after a hurricane is for clean drinking water, especially to stave off an outbreak of cholera. UMCOR has collaborated around the world with GlobalMedic in water purification. “GlobalMedic is already setting up in Haiti,” he said. “It provides filtration systems and teaches communities how to fit them out for use over a period of many months.”
Kemper’s letter to Bishop Paul noted that The United Methodist Church’s network of volunteers in mission are on the alert to possible post-hurricane service, but, at this point, the agency is advising volunteers not to head immediately to the stricken nation. The Global Ministries office of mission volunteers recommends that volunteer teams wait until the church in Haiti can work out a system for the most productive use of their work in the areas of greatest need.
“Haiti has a special place in the hearts of United Methodists. We have worked with the Methodist Church there for many years, and constantly since the earthquake of early 2010,” Kemper said in his letter to Bishop Paul. “Be assured now of our affection and readiness to again be your partner in a time of pain wrought by the ravages of nature.”
* Elliott Wright is an information consultant working with the General Board of Global Ministries.