Elmita Nodeis sits on the ground in the school courtyard with a few buckets in front of her.

The school, in the southern Haitian town of Les Cayes, is being used as an evacuation centre in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. It has become home for Elmita and her family.

“My home has been destroyed and I haven’t eaten since yesterday, so I started washing people’s clothes for a bit of money,” said Elmita.

The 51-year-old was in her home when the hurricane hit.

“I was sleeping and I thought I was dreaming that someone was telling me, ‘come quick, come quick’. And then I woke up and my house was being destroyed by the storm, so I ran out,” recalled Elmita.

There are no mattresses at the school, so everyone sleeps on the concrete floor. Classrooms are crowded with families, all left homeless by the hurricane.

Pauline Divert was not in her home when the storm hit. Red Cross volunteers had ushered the 41-year-old and her family to the evacuation centre.

“I went back to see my house and I was devastated when I saw it destroyed,” said Pauline. “Even my husband’s fishing boat is gone.”


The threat of cholera

More than 100 tonnes of relief items despatched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have arrived in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, over the past week.

Three cargo planes have transported essentials including tarpaulins, emergency shelter kits, mosquito nets, kitchen sets and jerry cans.

“Haiti Red Cross volunteers are now distributing these items – including in the remote areas of Les Cayes and Jérémie,” said Steve McAndrew, IFRC head of emergency operations.

Water purification tablets, chlorine solution and hygiene kits – all vital to prevent the spread of cholera – are also being distributed to people like Elmita and Pauline.

“One of the biggest challenges right now is accessing remote areas, which can only be reached by helicopter or boat,” added Steve.

“Red Cross volunteers are taking with them as many essential items as possible, and they often need to walk for kilometres to reach remote communities.”


Another cargo plane transporting relief goods is expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince in the coming days.

Ben Webster, British Red Cross head of emergencies, explained how aid distributions are carried out in the wake of a major disaster.

“The first thing you need to do is assess the damage and find out exactly what people need,” said Ben, who was part of the humanitarian response after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

“This can take time as roads are impassable, but it’s an important step to ensure the aid is well targeted and addresses people’s needs.

“Our teams are working as hard and as fast as they can. The presence of cholera in Haiti – a potentially life-threatening disease – means the humanitarian need is even greater.”