Aid slowly arriving in Haiti as hurricane clean-up gets underway
id convoys are finally getting through to areas of Haiti worst hit by Hurricane Matthew, now that some roads washed out by have been cleared.
An international response to the staggering blow delivered by Hurricane Matthew to southwestern Haiti was finally getting under way on Saturday even as authorities were still trying to gauge the full extent of the death and destruction.
“It’s beginning to pick up now,” said Stephane Rolland, a regional coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross, as workers unloaded blankets, soap, bleach and other critical items in Jeremie.
There are clearly limits, though, including the fact that the airstrip in Jeremie is unable to accommodate large cargo planes. Many of the villages in the southwestern peninsula are difficult to reach. And people are growing increasingly desperate after losing everything when the storm ripped through on Tuesday.
One woman stared with outstretched arms as a UN convoy drove through town. “I am hungry. I hope they can help,” said Fabienne Charles, explaining that she would normally be working as a market vendor but
lost her supplies in the storm. The precise death toll from the storm remained uncertain. Guillaume Silvera, a senior official with the Civil Protection Agency in the Grand-Anse Department, which is on the tip of the southern peninsula and includes the city of Jeremie, said they had confirmed 522 deaths, not including anyone in several remote communities that they have yet to reach because of collapsed roads and bridges.
“We think the numbers will have to go up,” Silvera said.
Government officials estimate that at least 350,000 people need assistance, and 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, when the infectious disease was introduced into the country’s biggest river from a UN base where Nepalese peacekeepers were deployed.
Maria Sofia Sanon, a health worker overseeing the open-air cholera treatment centre in a corner of Jeremie’s main hospital, said they were ill-equipped to deal with patients.
The area was strewn with broken tree branches, and a group of young mothers sat outside holding up the arms of glassy-eyed children being rehydrated via IVs.
“They’re not supposed to be in the sun, but we have no more beds,” Sanon said.
The World Food Programme says there has been massive destruction of crops. Hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed as they struggle to deal with an increase in patients with injuries sustained during the storm and cholera.
UNICEF said that in Grand Anse alone there were 66,000 houses destroyed and 20,000 heavily damaged.
Jocelyne Saint Preux was part of the crowd that lined up in an orderly fashion to get food as aid began to arrive, including shipments of food and supplies from the US Agency for International Development carried by waves of military transport helicopters.
The mother of three children whose home was destroyed said: “They brought food, but it’s not sufficient. There’s no water, no charcoal.”
Jislene Jean-Baptiste surveyed what remained of the one-room house that the grandmother shares with her three daughters and their children. There wasn’t much left. Storm surge flowed across the road and drenched her belongings in waist-deep salt water, washing away the stores of rice and sugar she regularly sold at the market to support her family. Then the wind tore off her roof.
“That storm was the most terrifying thing that ever happened here,” she said.
DESPERATE: Residents of Jeremie in Haiti await aid supplies
TREATMENT: Cholera patients at a makeshift clinic