Hurricane Matthew death toll mounts; 350,000 Haitians need immediate assistance


Hurricane Matthew, which hit Haiti on Oct. 4, caused more than 100 deaths, and has affected more than one million Haitians, of whom 350,000 need immediate assistance. Access to large swathes of the affected southern area—one-quarter of the country—remains difficult and the scale of the damage means humanitarian needs are likely to be significant. Handicap International has deployed an emergency team to assess the needs of the affected population.

The hurricane caused significant damage to the southern departments of Grand’Anse and Sud. The storm caused serious material damage including to more than 1,800 homes. Infrastructure damage, including damaged or destroyed bridges, flooding and landslides, have rendered access to large areas of the southern peninsula impossible. At least 11 municipalities have been affected by floods in the Grand-Anse, Nippes and Sud departments, with evacuations (so far, more than 15,000 people) ongoing.

“Flooding regularly raises long-term risks,” explains Audrey Lecomte, coordinator of Handicap International’s emergency team in Haiti. “It destroys livelihoods, and stagnant water raises the risk of epidemics: cholera and dengue are already serious problems in Haiti, and there could be a new outbreak. One of our top priorities will be to ensure that affected populations benefit from immediate humanitarian aid, such as access to drinking water, health care, medication and mosquito nets.”

Handicap International’s 100-person team in Haiti are preparing to travel to the affected areas to identify the essential needs of affected populations. An initial backup team of five people will arrive in Haiti on Friday morning to support evacuations, bolster the local team, and help other humanitarian organizations access regions that are worst affected by Hurricane Matthew.

“Hurricane Matthew has affected people already regularly exposed to natural disasters and yet to recover from the deadly earthquake of January 2010,” notes Gaëlle Vandeputte, the head of Handicap International’s projects in Haiti. “The impact of this hurricane risks making the most vulnerable people even more vulnerable over the long-term.”

The hurricane continued along its trajectory, hit the eastern tip of Cuba, where more than 300,000 people have been evacuated to temporary shelters, and has battered the Bahamas. Hurricane Matthew is now sweeping towards Florida, where it should make landfall Thursday afternoon.

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Handicap International in Haiti and Cuba

Handicap International has worked in Cuba (provinces of Pinar del Rio and Granma, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa and Guantanamo) since 1998, and in Haiti (region of Port-au-Prince, department of Nippes, municipalities of Delmas and Carrefour, and the departments of Artibonite and Nord) since 2008. In Haiti, Handicap International provided support to tens of thousands of victims of the earthquake of January 2010.