We spoke to a Haiti hospital after Hurricane Matthew. This is what they want you to know.

On Oct. 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti's southern peninsula.

Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

And as you may or may not have seen in the news, it was pretty bad.


The death toll has risen to over 800 people and might grow as officials continue to reach the worst affected areas, according to The Weather Channel. Tens of thousands of houses have been damaged, and the Haitian president has called the situation "catastrophic."

Halfway down that peninsula is St. Boniface Hospital, which provides affordable medical care to local Haitians.

St. Boniface is a pretty important part of the local Haitian community, and it paints an important picture of what happens to poorer countries when large weather patterns hit.

St. Boniface, before the storm. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

St. Boniface Hospital is located in the community of Fond-des-Blancs, and it has been a local fixture since 1983. It's where people can go if they need surgery or are having a baby. Fond-des-Blancs is pretty small, with a population of about 500 people, mostly farmers, so St. Boniface is often the only place to get medical care.

Fortunately, the eye of Hurricane Matthew missed Fond-des-Blancs and the hospital itself.

According to Liz Schwartz, the media and communications manager for the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, which runs the hospital, the eye of the storm crossed further west instead, out to the very tip of the peninsula.

That direct area suffered severe storm damage, and people are still having trouble getting there to find out what's going on and provide aid. Many parts of the west are currently only accessible by helicopter.

Sous Roche, one of the areas further west that got hit by the hurricane. Photo by Nicolas Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

But while Fond-des-Blancs was spared the most severe damage, it doesn't mean the people there emerged unscathed.

The community was still hit with severe rain and wind and there's been a lot of local damage to houses, roads, and bridges. The hospital itself is still up and running though, thanks to electrical generators.

The wind blew the roof off this school. Part of a church collapsed nearby and a lot of houses have been damaged too. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

St. Boniface normally sees about 300-500 patients a day, says Schwartz, and they have seen some injuries, such as cuts, though there haven't actually been that many patients coming in.

While that might sound like great news, it actually illustrates one of the hospital's biggest worries.

The storm's left a lot of people pretty much stranded.

The rain and wind were so intense that Schwartz said staff saw floodwaters reach a 20-foot-tall bridge. Further away, the La Digue Bridge was overtaken, and it actually collapsed, cutting off the peninsula's only major thoroughfare to the mainland.

People at the site of La Digue. Photo by Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images.

The road conditions aren't much better than the bridges. Most of the local roads aren't paved; they're dirt or gravel. The rain's washed a lot of them out or littered them with debris.

"Pretty much what they're seeing is that they can't get anywhere," said Schwartz.

Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

When people are cut off, they can't get the medical attention they might need.

"There are communities that are completely cut off," said Schwartz. "We can't even get to them to see what condition they're in."

Both locals and hospital workers have been working to restore drivability, and they're expecting to see a lot more people once travel is restored. In the meantime, people have been sent out into the communities to learn more and provide help.

Workers repairing a washed-out road. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

They're also trying to get in contact with their partner clinics in the severely-damaged west end of the peninsula.

Beyond the storm's immediate effect, storms can cause bigger problems in poor countries, like hunger and disease.

Most of the surrounding areas are pretty poor. "The majority of people live on less than $2 a day," said Schwartz.

And because many people in Fond-des-Blancs are subsistence farmers, they may have trouble getting food if their crops were damaged or washed away by the storm.

Hunger could turn into a major humanitarian crisis too, according to Schwartz. Diseases like cholera can also erupt after a natural disaster when people struggle to get access to clean water.

Getting an ambulance unstuck. Photo from St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, used with permission.

And with the peninsula cut off from the mainland, it's going to be really hard to get supplies in. That bridge — the La Digue — was really important. Trucks can't go over the washed-out dirt roads.

Extreme weather patterns can have a lasting impact on poor countries — and we might start seeing more of them.

While this specific incident is a new story, it's also one we might be hearing more and more in the future. But without adequate infrastructure, it's going to take Haiti a while to recover. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick. Everyone in Haiti, and around the world, will need to help.

There are lots of ways to help from America too. Primarily, you can help fund local, well-established charities and institutions like St. Boniface. Material donations are going to run into the same shipping problem as everything else, but funds can help local relief efforts buy food and supplies.

The United States has also deployed an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. George Washington, as well as an amphibious transport dock, a hospital ship, and nine helicopters to Haiti to help.

When a natural disaster hits, it's often hard for communities to get back on their feet.

But if we could be more aware of how natural disasters affect developing nations — if we can help stories like about this local hospital get attention — we can actually save lives and help a country recover.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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