Natural disasters usually come on quickly—when the earthquake happened here in Haiti, there was no warning at all. When the hurricanes come, we often get at least a few hours of notice. But when a drought happens, it’s slow. Subtle. Painfully so.
Last year in Haiti, we didn’t get enough rain. There were some articles and research put out by various organizations about “food insecurity.” (At our house, we just call it hunger.) Food prices went up, but we got enough rain to muddle through.
This year, we started getting heavy rains in May—that’s early for Port-au-Prince. People excitedly planted their corn and squash in small gardens and on hillsides, whatever space they could find. Then the rain stopped. At our house, we haven’t had a heavy rain in two months…and I know we’re not alone. We have a city water service that comes automatically, but many people aren’t so fortunate. Their water storage cisterns are low. Their yards are dry; those same corn stalks stand yellowed and dead. Their mangoes hang, still green, on the trees. They watch as we do when thunderclouds form in the afternoon, towering above the troposphere, only to pass by. I find it hard to connect with news articles, but I can’t ignore it when our agent in La Gonave calls me, pleading with us to send him food because his garden hasn’t produced.
I read last week that FEMA has declared a drought in 26 states in the U.S., including my home state of Oregon. It left me wondering who’s going to declare a drought here; I keep waiting for someone to notice, but maybe it’s enough that we notice. Whether it’s official or not, it’s happening, and it’s hard to watch. For now, we’re here, feeling the hurt, ready to help however we can, and like everyone else, praying for rain.