Israelis didn’t have far to go in the rush to get aid to the people of Haiti following Hurricane Matthew’s destructive brush with the island country. That’s because they were already there.

A crew from the nonprofit organization IsraAID has been in Haiti for more than six years, having arrived just after the January 2010 earthquake to help in rescue and recovery operations.

“Our team is doing food and water distribution around Port-au-Prince,” IsraAID Media Director and emergency team leader Mickey Noam-Alon told ISRAEL21c over the weekend, as the number of dead in Haiti nears 900.

Hurricane Matthew’s 145-mile-per-hour winds and torrential rains destroyed houses and entire villages as well as roads, bridges and other infrastructure on October 3 and 4. Government and UN officials estimate that some 350,000 Haitians are in need of assistance.

IsraAID and local partner Prodev were the first to provide food and water for hundreds of children and their families at Cite Soleil, “a densely populated and extremely impoverished community in Port-Au-Prince,” Noam-Alon reported.

“The little we had is all gone,” said a pastor in Cite Soleil who is working in a local school serving as a temporary shelter for residents.  “Thanks to IsraAID’s donation, I was able to feed all these kids for the last two days.”

Natalie Revesz, IsraAID’s country director based in Port-Au-Prince, reported, “As soon as the rain stopped, we came out and started contacting our parents and people we work with to understand the scale and the needs. We started arranging supplies and distributions, as many people have left without a shelter.”

Devastation in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, October 2016. Photo courtesy of IsraAID
Devastation in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, October 2016. Photo courtesy of IsraAID

Only two months ago, MASHAV, the Israel Foreign Ministry’s agency for international development cooperation, sent a new shipment of medical supplies to re-equip the trauma unit it established in one of Haiti’s main government hospitals three years ago.

“We are now assessing and exploring the current needs in the wake of the fresh disaster, and will decide on how to support the relief efforts,” Ambassador Gil Haskel, head of MASHAV, told ISRAEL21c on Sunday morning.

Israel does not have a resident embassy in Haiti.

Noam-Alon says IsraAID is now coordinating with Haitian authorities and partners on the ground to reach populations in desperate need of emergency supplies, including  food, clean water, and basic hygiene items.

“Our thoughts are with our staff, volunteers, partners, communities, and all the people of Haiti, with whom we have been proud to work for over 6 years now,” IsraAID posted on its Facebook page. “May Haiti stay strong in the face of this storm, and ride it out safely. IsraAID stands committed to Haiti, and our emergency teams, both on the ground and internationally are ready to respond should the need arise.”