As Hurricane Matthew barrels towards the U.S. mainland, the Disaster Ministries team of the United Church of Christ is preparing its response after the category 4 storm slammed into Haiti Tuesday, Oct. 4, with 145 mph winds.
Disaster Ministries executive Zach Wolgemuth said that his team is monitoring the developing calamity through various networks — including Global Ministries partners in Haiti and Church World Service, of which the UCC is a member denomination. Global Ministries is the shared international ministry between the UCC and the Disciples of Christ.
"I’ve been in touch with partners and we are expecting devastating effects from this powerful storm but the full extent of the impact is yet unknown," Wolgemuth said. "My request is that you keep our sisters and brothers in your prayers. I have no doubt we will be responding to Matthew and we will accept financial support."
Angel L. Rivera-Agosto, Global Ministries Area Executive for Latin America, is in constant contact with partner organizations throughout the Caribbean to identify which areas affected by Hurricane Matthew are in need or are being overlooked. One partner in Haiti reported "the most affected departments of the countries are in the South of Haiti. Sud, Grand'Anse, Nippes and Sud-est have been severely affected by the winds and the rain, mostly on the crops and the houses.”
Haiti was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake when Matthew rocked the southern coast of the country. So far, 10 people have been killed in the Bahamas by the slow-moving storm, thousands of people are currently living in shelters and in Haiti, torrential downpours have flooded the streets — raising fears of waterborne diseases that threaten children. The full scope of the destruction is hard to determine in Haiti since communications were knocked down and transportation was cut off.
"I expect our immediate response to include support for emergency relief — which typically includes things like, potable water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, food rations, non-food items (kitchen supplies, mosquito nets, etc.), shelter (tarps, tents), medicines, and so forth," Wolgemuth said. "As communications are restored and information passed on through our network, we will respond quickly to immediate needs with an eye towards long-term recovery restoration work in the months and years to come."
The East Coast of the United States is bracing for a possible direct hit from the storm in the coming days, as residents of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are stocking up on supplies, and preparing to evacuate in some areas. Making its way through the Bahamas, the hurricane has sustained winds up to 125 mph, and expected to reach the U.S. mainland between Thursday evening and Saturday.
Disaster Ministries expects to receive additional reports in upcoming days, and Wolgemuth said the church stands ready to support requests for assistance through its network of partners.
Anyone interested in supporting the UCC response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti is encouraged to give to the International Emergency Relief Fund. Those interested in supporting the response in the U.S. are encouraged to give to the Emergency USA Fund.