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After Hurricane Matthew, 6 cholera centers in Haiti require repair before they can treat people

By Oxfam
The school in Torbeck at which Jean Robert Auguste serves as director is just one of at least 300 hit hard by Hurricane Matthew—temporarily suspending the educations of 100,000 children. Photo by Fran Afonso

Repairs are urgently needed as officials document suspected new cases of the waterborne disease.

When Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti’s southwest coast last week, the category 4 storm not only killed hundreds of people while destroying homes and harvests, it hit the country at another crucial point: its cholera treatment centers.

Six of the centers now require repair before they can be used again to treat people—an urgent need as officials are reporting more than 129 new cases of suspected cholera have erupted in the week since the storm.

Oxfam remains particularly worried about the deadly waterborne disease and the potential for a new outbreak that could spread quickly because the storm damaged local water systems, exposing people to dirty water sources. In the Jeremie area alone in the Grand’Anse department, 30,000 people have no drinking water.

Oxfam teams are now distributing hygiene kits in hard-hit communities such as Camp-Perrin, Torbeck, and Les Cayes in the Sud Department. Among the items included in the kits are soap, buckets, and water purification tablets. We have also begun to help repair water supplies.

In addition to the danger from possible disease outbreaks, families are also worrying about food. In the area around Grand’Anse, the hurricane destroyed almost 100 percent of the crops—a total annihilation of people’s food and livelihoods. Other provinces are reporting crop losses of between 60 percent and 90 percent. More than half of the livestock in some areas also died in the storm, robbing people of food and valuable assets. In order to survive in the coming weeks, many people will have to sell whatever animals they have left. Oxfam is providing people with emergency food.

Central to the emergency response are the local partnerships we have been working to build over time. We are reaching the most vulnerable people by involving community-based organizations and local authorities, while also coordinating with local governments.

Still, the scale of this disaster—the biggest to hit Haiti since the massive earthquake in 2010-- demands an international response and we are urging the global community to move fast and fulfill the $119 million appeal the UN has called for. An estimated 1.4 million people—or 12 percent of Haiti’s population—need humanitarian assistance now.

A week after the storm, some parts of the country still remain inaccessible by road. The death toll, too, is still uncertain. Some reports put the number of dead at 1,000; the Haitian government says it is slightly higher than 300.

 Many children—about 100,000—have had their educations interrupted as at least 300 schools were damaged. Officials worry that it could be weeks or months before the buildings can be repaired and classes can resume.

On the day the storm passed through Torbeck, classes were suspended at the school where Jean Robert Auguste serves as director—a propitious decision.

“If not,” said Auguste, whose school was damaged, “(there) would have been many dead and injured children. I had never seen anything like this—so fast.”


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