Over a week after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, the country and relief organizations are still assessing the extent of damage and fatalities as concerns rise over a new outbreak of cholera.
Fortunately, the densely populated capital, Port au Prince, escaped the full strength of the Category 4 hurricane, but the western cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie were hit head on.
The death toll continues to rise, with tragic images of families carrying coffins through debris-strewn streets emerging on social media. Deaths are currently put at 1,000 or more with at least 12 more attributed to the cholera outbreak.
An initial assessment of the destruction indicates that some 200,000 houses were severely affected. At the same time, a pressing challenge to provide humanitarian assistance to some 1.4 million people continues.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) conducted aerial and field assessments that showed tens of thousands stranded in Jeremie and it is estimated that more than 350,000 people are in need humanitarian assistance.
Additionally, a UNICEF team reached Les Cayes and identified massive flooding damage to the town’s hospital and other health clinic. In addition to water and sanitation supplies for up to 10,000 – prepositioned before the hurricane hit – the first truck arrived in Les Cayes on 6 October with water-treatment tablets and water bladders. On 10 October, UNICEF sent six additional water trucks there and to Jeremie.
The recovery effort, on top of the still incomplete rebuilding in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, will take years and likely billions of dollars. Contributions can be made to UNICEF and the Red Cross.