While residents in the northeastern U.S. begin the recovery after Superstorm Sandy, our teams in Haiti continue a rapid assessment of the massive destruction it caused there over the weekend. Mercy Corps will work through our existing microinsurance organization to ensure thousands get the funds they desperately need to rebuild.
“Sandy created the largest rain event, by far, in the 14 years since satellites began measuring rainfall in Haiti. Based on early reports, it is the largest disaster in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake,” said James Kurz, Mercy Corps’ Financial Services Senior Technical Advisor to MiCRO, the organization we co-founded with local microfinance institution Fonkoze in 2011.
The hardest hit areas in the south received upwards of 500 millimeters of rain (nearly 20 inches) in just a few days, but the entire country suffered under the historic deluge. Any crops that were spared during Tropical Storm Isaac just two months ago have been almost entirely wiped out; flooding damaged or destroyed nearly 20,000 homes, displacing even more families.
MiCRO is designed to protect microentrepreneurs — many of them women — from catastrophic losses in the wake of natural disasters just like Sandy. When they survive on as little as $2 a day by selling small goods out of their home or at the market, damaged inventory or houses can mean the end of any income — and access to food, water and education — for these women and their families. MiCRO funds give them a means to start over as quickly as possible.
Nearly 9,000 women received assistance within a month of Tropical Storm Isaac this past August. It takes a minimum of 200 mm of rainfall to trigger insurance payments, but Sandy dumped over twice that amount on Haiti. Based on that magnitude and the larger range of damage throughout the country, Mercy Corps and Fonkoze teams expect the Sandy-related payouts to be the largest in MiCRO’s 18-month history.
Though some clients still remain unreachable beyond flooded rivers and destroyed bridges, teams have already begun assessing damage. Over the coming weeks, they will meet with clients to review claims and make payments.
“The majority of losses will be merchandise that was damaged by the rain or washed away. Since many businesses are in their homes, payments will also help them repair damage to their houses,” Kurz explained. “Millions and millions of dollars will be flowing into the hands of those who need it most.”