After the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew, the mayor and other officials from North Miami traveled to Haiti last week to survey some of the most significantly impacted areas and to meet with local leaders in the island nation.
Mayor Smith Joseph, Vice Mayor Alix Desulme and Police Chief Gary Eugene — who are all Haitian American — made the two-day trip and met with Mayor Jean Gabriel Fortune of Les Cayes, one of the hardest-hit cities. The group also met with Jessy Petit-Frere, the minister of Haitians living abroad; Francois Anick Joseph, minister of interior; and Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin, minister of tourism.
Joseph said that the city officials were able to get a close look at the damage in areas like Les Cayes, and he called the storm’s damage devastating. Beyond the hundreds of deaths caused by Hurricane Matthew, Joseph said that government administrators still don’t know the full extent of long-term damage the storm has caused.
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“In the months to come that’s really the aftermath because there’s going to be a big shortage of food,” Joseph said. “The main problem is they don’t know where to start and we don’t know how to start going about providing help.”
The city’s delegation also received the same message shared by South Florida activists to make donations directly to the country and not necessarily through larger organizations or nonprofits. In addition to food, toiletries and new clothing the country is also in need of water and water purification items.
The mayor — a native of Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti — also hopes that this storm will be a wake-up call for the Haitian government in the years to come.
“Haiti is a country that’s always in the path of hurricanes so it behooves the Haitian government to prepare every year,” Joseph said.
Mayor Fortune recently declared a state of emergency in Les Cayes, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the country this past weekend.
The city delegation’s trip came a few days after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime visited Haiti. Several South Florida organizations, police departments and municipalities have also set up locations to accept donations.
Elected officials from the city have also traveled to Haiti in the past, including after the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and the 2008 hurricane season.
Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.