Hurricane Matthew: International community must respond now to prevent more loss of life
Food, shelter and clean water are needed urgently by people in southern Haiti following the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew last week. Oxfam fears that the current death toll of at least 800 will increase further. The international community must act immediately to mitigate the loss of entire harvests and to counter any possible spikes of cholera.
Oxfam is sending 3 tons of water purifying supplies to Haiti.
Damien Berrendorf, Oxfam director in Haiti said: “Our greatest fear is that loss of crops and possible spread of cholera and other diseases will cause more deaths than the actual hurricane over the next days and weeks. We are talking about extremely vulnerable people who have lost absolutely everything. They will not recover their livelihoods or reach minimum survival conditions without significantly more support.”
Many of those people affected are suffering from hunger and do not have any means to buy seeds or tools. Farm animals are also dead. In the most devastated areas more than 80% of the population relied on self-sufficiency farming, so this humanitarian crisis will hit them particularly hard.
The United Nations estimated that the hurricane has affected more than 2.1 million people, with 750,000 in urgent need of assistance. According to UNICEF, half a million children live in the Sud and Gran-Anse departments, the ones worst hit by Matthew. Oxfam calls for a great international mobilization to help them.
Senita Terbil, mother of two children from the village of Castambie in the Sud department, told Oxfam: “Everything is lost. All our animals are dead. We have nothing to feed the children. We have no means to plant again; we have no seeds or tools.” Her house has disappeared and she lives now in a precarious shelter built by her husband.
Oxfam fears the renewed spread of cholera and other diseases due to lack of hygiene and contaminated water. After an initial assessment, Oxfam is now distributing hygiene kits including personal cleaning supplies and water purification tablets. It is installing clean water supplies to counter cholera, diarrhoea, and other diseases. It is also handing out temporary roofing for people to patch up their houses. The storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes.
Louis Joelle, who lives outside the city of Les Cayes, said: “We expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water. We need drinkable water and food, we don´t have anything, everything is destroyed. We need water, food, seeds, and shelter.”
Oxfam is working in coordination with local authorities, especially at the municipal level and Civil Protection, and also with local organizations and international agencies like UNICEF to speed up the distribution of humanitarian aid to those most affected.
“Damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew to roads and power lines in some areas is of the same magnitude to those suffered after the 2010 earthquake. It is important that the big donors start to work as soon as possible,” said Oxfam’s Berrendorf.