Hurricane Matthew: Race against the clock as casualty numbers threaten to overwhelm health centres
As the death toll in Haiti soars to more than 1,000 after the passage of Hurricane Matthew, humanitarian organisations including Handicap International face a race against the clock. Rising casualty numbers threaten to overwhelm the few health centres and hospitals not hit by the disaster. Large sections of the population are also at risk from epidemics.
A destroyed home in southern Haiti. | © P.Thieler / Handicap International
Four days after the disaster, maritime traffic appears to have been restored in the south of Haiti, although only light vehicles can currently access Les Cayes, a city in the department of Sud severely affected by the disaster.
The city of Jérémie in Grand’Anse, which has been almost entirely destroyed, remains impossible to access. It will be several days or weeks before all land routes reopen.
"We are working to supply immediate aid to survivors who have lost everything. Casualty numbers are high," said Hélène Robin, head of Handicap International’s emergency response.
"Our teams in the field have two priorities: to provide them with immediate and appropriate care to make sure they do not die from their injuries or develop permanent disabilities, and to supply people affected with the equipment they need to build a shelter and prepare food."
The United Nations estimates that more than 750,000 people need immediate humanitarian aid, and has confirmed that very heavy damage is expected in the Grand-Anse and Sud sectors, particularly in the cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes. We are still waiting for information from Gonave Island and the Nord-Ouest department, which are cut off from the rest of Haiti.
To supply humanitarian aid to the most isolated areas, Handicap International plans to reinstate its logistics platform, originally set up in response to the hurricanes of 2008. The platform will be made available to all humanitarian organisations and will help redistribute aid centralised in Port-au-Prince, to avoid overcrowding in the capital.
To assist families who have lost everything, Handicap International is preparing to distribute repair kits including ropes and tarpaulins to make emergency repairs to their homes, along with cooking kits. The organisation also plans to distribute water purification tablets to avoid the spread of epidemics.
In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Handicap International trained some 50 physiotherapists, compared to the dozen whop were in Haiti before the disaster. Our emergency team will work to provide physical rehabilitation to casualties and provide them with follow-up care. Handicap International also expects to provide emergency psychosocial support to people traumatised by the disaster.
Handicap International UK has launched an emergency appeal to support disabled and vulnerable people affected by the disaster in Haiti.
Please donate online now or text HIUK01 £5 to 70070.