In the wake of widespread destruction left by Hurricane Matthew across the island of Haiti, the historic Jewish charity, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), was among the many humanitarian organizations that partnered to bring relief to the disaster-stricken population.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, and the wider region, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s devastation. All too familiar with the acute needs facing Haitians, JDC activated its network of international and local partners and is mobilizing relief efforts in an expression of humanitarian solidarity and Jewish values,” said Alan H. Gill, JDC’s CEO.
As of Monday, death tolls in Haiti had reached as high as 1,000, according to some reports. Over 30,000 homes have been destroyed and the United Nations reports that 350,000 Haitians are in need of assistance
JDC’s efforts are carried out through an on-the-ground partner, Heart to Heart, a Kansas-based non-profit organization that specializes in crisis relief. Its efforts have focused on Haiti’s southern region, the area most affected by the storm. The organizations are focused on providing desperately needed medical assistance, particularly in areas where severe food shortages and fears of outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera have exacerbated the level of urgency.
Presently, three medical teams have been dispatched to the Sud (southern) province and a forth is operating in Western Haiti.
At the time that Matthew hit the island, it was rated as a Category 4 Hurricane with 145 mph winds and 50-foot waves. In addition to claiming lives and damaging property, it disrupted cell communications and caused major infrastructure damage to key bridges, airports, and roads.
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, is no stranger to natural disasters. In 2010, a massive earthquake claimed over 100,000 lives and destroyed an estimated 250,000 homes and commercial buildings. Then too, JDC joined the large international relief effort providing food and water supplies, medical treatment, psychosocial support, job training, and education for more than 400,000 among the stricken population.
The JDC was first formed in 1914 to aid Jewish communities that had been affected by the First World War, focusing on the isolated population living in Palestine. In the years following the Holocaust they took a leading role in providing aid to refugees and were especially active within DP (displaced person) camps in Germany.
In recent years, they have partnered with several international organizations to provide aid to nations struck by large-scale humanitarian crises including Ecuador, Macedonia, Italy, Nepal, the Philippines, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
“Our response to this crisis is especially poignant during the Jewish High Holidays, when we examine carefully our actions in the last year and recommit to our obligation as individuals and a global people to aid those in dire need,” said Mr. Gill.