Published On: Tue, Oct 11th, 2016

Cholera and famine fears rise along with Haiti’s Hurricane Matthew death toll

Hurricane Matthew Jeremie Les CayesPORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti faces the risk of famine after Hurricane Matthew left the country devastated, interim president Jocelerme Privert warned on Tuesday. The storm killed 1,000 people and has aggravated a cholera outbreak.

Privert said famine could grip the impoverished country in the next three or four months if necessary steps were not taken in a timely manner.

Hurricane Matthew destroyed up to 80 percent of crops in some areas, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. For an economy looking to revive its agricultural sector, this was a devastating blow. According to the Financial Times, Haiti’s agriculture was expected to attract 73 percent investment and create 74 percent of the country’s new jobs in the Fiscal Year 2014-15.

“But the concern is if we don’t take action now for the longer impact… three to four months when the foods stop coming, we are going to have a real famine,” Privert was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“What I saw with my eyes yesterday will take a lot of effort to work on the reconstruction part of what has been destroyed,” he added.

The call for action comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the international community to engage in a “massive response” to help the calamity-stricken people of Haiti.

“A massive response is required,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. “Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map,” he said.

Matthew, the fiercest hurricane to hit the Caribbean in a decade, levelled homes, contaminated water sources and killed livestock, with victims pleading for help to arrive quickly.

The United Nations launched a $120 million flash appeal to cover Haiti’s needs for the next three months.

The UN’s World Food Programme has begun distributions from food stocks previously set aside for schools to feed hundreds of desperate families, spokesman Alexis Masciarelli said.

At least 26 more tonnes had been moved to one of the worst-hit cities, Jeremie, for distribution, and more was on its way to Les Cayes, the other major city affected on the peninsula, he said.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said the hurricane had triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake.

Cholera

Haiti has been grappling with cholera since 2010 when an epidemic ended up killing at least 10,000 people. Some say the outbreak never ended.

Hurricane Matthew has caused a resurgence of the killer disease as both fatalities and cases are on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on October 11 that it will send 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti.

“The decision was made yesterday to deploy (an) additional one million doses and we have two options for using them, we can use the classic strategy with two doses, therefore we are going to cover half a million people, if I am good at maths. We can also go for a single dose campaign, which would be easier to implement, and that will help cover one million people,” WHO cholera expert Dominique Legros told reporters during a news briefing in Geneva.

From 2010 to date, Haiti has recorded almost 800,000 cases of cholera mainly because of a lack of access to safe water. For 2016, there have been 29,000 reported cases, almost 800 cases a week.

“In [the] context of [the] hurricane, therefore floodings, therefore potential contamination of the drinking water by faecal sludge, we are quite concerned by the risk of further increase of cholera cases,” Legros said.

The widespread flooding is expected to spread sewage from the country’s poor sanitary systems, carrying cholera bacteria. Nearly 200 cases of cholera have surfaced after the hurricane.

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