Aid arrives, desperation spreads in cutoff towns
Concern is growing over an increase in cholera cases after Hurricane Matthew
Helicopters are ferrying in food and medicine to devastated southwestern Haiti, but almost a week after Hurricane Matthew’s assault life here is still far from normal and desperation is growing in communities where aid has yet to arrive.
Power is still out, water and food are scarce, and officials say that young men in villages along the road between the hard-hit cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie are putting up blockades of rocks and broken branches to halt convoys of vehicles bringing relief supplies.
“They are seeing these convoys coming through with supplies and they aren’t stopping. They are hungry and thirsty and some are getting angry ,” said Dony Saint Germain, an official with El Shaddai Ministries International.
A convoy carrying food, water and medicine was attacked by gunmen in a remote valley where there had been a bad mudslide, said Frednel Kedler, the coordinator for the Civil Protection Agency in Grand-Anse department. He said authorities will try to reach marooned and desperate communities west of Jeremie on Monday.
Throughout Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, people were digging themselves out from the wreckage of the storm, which killed hundreds, destroyed tens of thousands of houses, left at least 350,000 people in need of assistance and raised concerns of a surge in cholera cases.
Guillaume Silvera, a senior official with the Civil Protection Agency in storm-blasted Grand-Anse, which includes Jeremie, said at least 522 deaths were confirmed there alone — not including people in several remote communities still marooned by collapsed roads and bridges.
The National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, said its official count for the whole country was 336, whichincluded 191 deaths in Grand-Anse.
People in Port Salut and Les Cayes said little to no aid had reached them by Sunday. Besides food and water, they need clothing and especially shoes because many have cut their feet or stepped on old nails because so much debris is scattered about. The desperation comes as international relief efforts ramp up. The first three of five cargo planes of humanitarian aid from the United States have arrived at Port-au-Prince’s airport. They were carrying 480metric tons of relief supplies, including 20,000 hygiene kits, 18,000 sets of kitchen utensils for cooking, 40,000 blankets and 500 rolls of plastic sheeting.
The airstrip in Jeremie, a city near the tip of Haiti’s southwest peninsula, is unable to accommodate large cargo planes, so relief was being ferried to the devastated city by helicopter. Three of nine US helicopters had arrived in Jeremie by Sunday, bringing rice and cooking oil, among other things.
Concern was growing over an increase in cholera cases following widespread flooding unleashed by Matthew. An ongoing cholera outbreak has already killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010.
People line up for food and clothes at a shelter in Port-Salut, southwest of Port-au-Prince, on Sunday, days after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, devastating the country.