H2H Blog

Hurricane Matthew: UN says 350,000 Haitians in need of assistance

Eleven confirmed dead, thousands forced into shelters and water in short supply as storm sweeps across Caribbean

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A man walks down a flooded street in the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images Sam Jones, Nicky Woolf and agencies

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew has affected 350,000 Haitians and left the country facing its “largest humanitarian event” since the devastating earthquake six years ago, the UN has said.

Ten thousand Haitians have been forced into shelters, while hospitals are under severe strain and water is in short supply, according to Mourad Wahba, the UN secretary general’s deputy special representative for Haiti.

A situation report from the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), citing information from the Haitian government’s Directorate of Civil Protection, says that 350,000 men, women and children in Haiti are in need of assistance.

Ocha said that flooding had been reported in 11 towns on Haiti’s southern coast, while the International Organisation for Migration issued alerts over the plight of the 55,000 internally displaced people who are still living in temporary shelters in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, following the 2010 quake.

At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the powerful storm as it made its weeklong march across the Caribbean, most of them on the island of Hispaniola, which is shared between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

With a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the rural south-west peninsula tip of Haiti is isolated.

Hours after Matthew swept on to the remote area on Tuesday, bringing 145mph winds, government leaders said they had not been able to fully gauge its impact.

“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they’ll have to be replaced while others were totally destroyed,” said the country’s interior minister, François Anick Joseph.

Both the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and its children’s agency, Unicef, have begun mobilising resources to help Haiti cope. WFP has arranged enough food supplies to feed 300,000 people for a month, while Unicef is preparing life-saving aid for 10,000 people in Haiti.

Marc Vincent, Unicef’s representative in Haiti, described the hurricane as “the worst storm Haiti has seen in decades”. He expressed concern about access to safe water and the high risk of water-borne diseases in children.

The storm ripped away a bridge in the flooded town of Petit Goave, preventing any road travel to the hard-hit south-west. Local radio reported water shoulder high in parts of the southern city of Les Cayes.

With access to the hardest-hit areas difficult, there are growing fears that the country’s cholera epidemic could spread still further. The disease, unwittingly introduced to Haiti by UN peacekeepers after the earthquake, has killed 9,000 people and there have been 27,000 suspected cases of cholera already this year, a third of them in children.

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Story provided by Sam Jones, Nicky Woolf and agencies Wednesday 5 October 2016 10.02 EDT

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