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‘Everything is destroyed’—Haitian families struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

By Oxfam
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“Even though Senita Terbil’s house was made form cinderblocks, it couldn’t withstand the force of the winds from Hurricane Matthew. The storm has devastated her family. "We have nothing. No food or money. Even my sister who is injured cannot go to hospital,” said Terbil. Photo by Fran Afonso

Oxfam is sending 3 tons of water purifying supplies to the hard-hit nation as potential for disease outbreaks worry survivors.

Three quarters of a million people across Haiti are in urgent need of assistance in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the powerful category 4 storm that slammed into the island nation last week, leaving an estimated 800 people dead and worry that the death toll will rise.

“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,” said Damien Berrendorf, Oxfam’s director in Haiti said. “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.”

Oxfam is calling for immediate action from the international community to help mitigate the loss of harvests and counter any possible spikes in cholera.  More than 80 percent of people living in the most severely damaged areas rely on farming to feed their families and this crisis has hit them particularly hard.

“Everything is lost,” said Senita Terbil, a mother of two children who lives with in the village of Castambie in the Sud department. “All our animals are dead. We have nothing to feed the children. We have no means to plant again.” The storm wiped out her house and the family is now living in a simple shelter built by her husband.

The potential for disease outbreaks is also weighing heavily on people who have seen the devastation caused by cholera—a waterborne disease that hit the country hard while it was reeling from the destruction of a massive earthquake in 2010.

“We expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water,” said Louis Joelle, who lives outside the city of Les Cayes.”We need drinkable water and food. We don’t have anything. Everything is destroyed.”

Working in coordination with local municipal authorities and the country’s civil protection department, Oxfam is now distributing hygiene kits which include personal cleaning supplies and water purification tablets. We are also delivering supplies of clean water to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhea. Oxfam is also distributing temporary roofing material to help families patch their homes, hundreds of thousands of which the hurricane either destroyed or damaged.

But there is a great deal more that needs to be done.


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