Haiti update: more than 800 dead, extensive damage


Three days after Hurricane Matthew roared over Haiti, the death toll continues to climb. Haitian authorities say that the storm robbed more than 800 people of their lives. The winds and storm surges caused severe damage, and left 350,000 people in need of humanitarian aid, according to United Nations.

“Haiti is one of the poorest countries on earth, so the recurrence of natural disasters weakens the whole population, which is regularly hit by large-scale disasters, but does not have the means to recover from them,” explains Hélène Robin, head of Handicap International’s emergency operations.

The cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes in the Grand-Anse and Sud sectors bore the brunt of the storm, leaving infrastructure severely damaged, with many roads blocked, and access restricted.

“In 2008, after Haiti was hit by two hurricanes, we set up a logistics platform with a fleet of 40, off-road trucks to transport humanitarian aid to areas that were impossible to access with conventional vehicles,” explains Robin. “Two [of our] logistics officers are now in Haiti, working to immediately restore the logistics platform in order to provide humanitarian organizations with access to the most isolated people.”

In addition to off-road vehicles, the team will likely use maritime routes to speed up delivery of aid.

Handicap International will also distribute aid to families who have lost everything. Teams intend to supply kits to help families repair or create makeshift shelters, including plastic sheeting and rope, and will also offer cooking kits to families whose kitchen utensils, pots and pans were lost in the storm.

To assist people with disabilities, older people and the sick, the organization will provide appropriate care-management, including the treatment of the injured to assist their mobility, and prevent the development of permanent disabilities. The teams will also distribute crutches, walking frames and wheelchairs.

In the days to come, the scope of work could drastically change. Robin explains, “we are also very concerned about people living in the Nord-Ouest department, which was hit slightly later by the hurricane. Reports of damage are sketchy, but worrying."