Hurricane Matthew's devastation in Haiti forces UN to call for $120m in aid

Ban Ki-moon says ‘massive response’ is crucial to provide ‘life-saving assistance’ as local aid officials struggle to get resources to increasingly desperate areas

The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a “massive response” to help Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew as local aid officials struggled to get food, medicine and water to increasingly desperate communities still isolated almost a week after the blow from the deadly storm.

“Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map,” Ban told reporters. “Tensions are already mounting as people await help. A massive response is required. UN teams are working with local officials to assess needs.”

Power was still out, water and food were scarce on Monday, and officials said young men in villages along the road between the hard-hit cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie were putting up blockades of rocks and broken branches to halt convoys of vehicles bringing relief supplies.

One convoy carrying food, water and medications was attacked by gunmen in a remote valley where there had been a mudslide, said Frednel Kedler, coordinator for the civil protection agency in the Grand-Anse department, which includes Jeremie. He said authorities would try to reach marooned and desperate communities west of Jeremie on Monday.

The national civil protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince on Monday raised its official nationwide death toll to 372, which included 198 deaths in Grand-Anse. Local officials have said the toll tops 500 in Grand-Anse alone.

The UN humanitarian agency in Geneva, meanwhile, made an emergency appeal for nearly $120m in aid to help provide “life-saving assistance and protection” for 750,000 people in south-western Haiti over the next three months.

UN officials said earlier that at least 1.4 million people across the region needed assistance and that 2.1 million overall had been affected by the hurricane. Some 175,000 people remained in shelters Monday.

The agency said flooding had hampered efforts to reach the most affected areas, and that the hurricane had increased the risk of a “renewed spike” in the number of cholera cases. A continuing cholera outbreak has already killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 since 2010.

Roosevelt Zamos, an official with the civil protection agency, told the Associated Press that there were 40 cases of cholera in Jeremie alone. He said eight people had died of cholera in the Grand-Anse department since the storm.

It can take 12 hours to five days for cholera symptoms to appear after a person ingests contaminated food or water, according to the World Health Organization.

The open-air cholera treatment center at Jeremie’s main hospital had no running water on Monday and at least a dozen of the new patients were under age 10.

Etienne Chimene tried her best to soothe her 13-month-old boy, Cenelson, who was lying in a wooden bed with a hole cut in it and a bucket underneath.

“I feel like my baby is getting worse,” she said as she stroked his head and he whimpered.

The center was overcrowded, and patients who were improving were forced outside. Among them was 21-year-old Nedrine Cabane, who sat on the ground with her father, who had brought her a pot of plantain soup that she ate gratefully. It was her first meal in three days.


“The fact that there is so much dirty water around makes me think that more people are going to get sick,” she said.

Dr Thiery Francois, lead doctor for the ministry of health at the cholera center, said he didn’t know how new cholera cases had been caused by the storm nationwide. “Certainly there are cases we don’t know anything about,” he said, referring to still-isolated areas.

People in the seaside communities of Port Salut and Les Cayes said little to no aid had reached them by Sunday. Besides food and water, they needed clothing and especially shoes because many had cut their feet or stepped on old nails in the scattered debris.

UN blue helmets load aid on Monday on to a truck for people affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie.
UN blue helmets load aid on Monday on to a truck for people affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Jeremie. Photograph: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

“I lost everything. See what I have on? Somebody gave it to me,” said Merlaine Chere in Port Salut. She showed off a wound from stepping on a nail and said she had been denied treatment at a local hospital because it demanded a $150 payment she didn’t have.

Dominique Pomper, a fisherman, said the mayor had come to distribute some rice but that was it. Among other things, he said, people here needed water. The surging ocean contaminated their wells, making water undrinkable.

Pomper said he had tried to stay at home with his family during the storm but they eventually fled as the water rushed into their house. The 61-year-old said it was the worst night of his life, but that he would never leave his seaside village.

“We are fishermen here; our job is the water. We can’t run away from the water,” he said.

The airstrip in Jeremie is unable to accommodate large cargo planes, so relief was being ferried to the devastated city by helicopter. Three of nine US helicopters had arrived in Jeremie by Sunday, bringing rice and cooking oil, among other things.

“I lost everything I own in this hurricane. I just came here to get some help,” said subsistence farmer Markus Bagard, one of roughly 200 Haitians standing outside the airstrip watching the helicopters be unloaded.

Staff and agencies in Jeremie

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Haiti faces fresh cholera outbreak after Hurricane Matthew, aid agencies fear
At least 200 suspected cases of the waterborne disease have been reported and an urgent response is called for with thousands lacking access to clean water

Amanda Holpuch in New York

14, Oct, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
'It was like a monster': Hurricane Matthew leaves Haiti in crisis
With bridges down and communications patchy, the scale of devastation wreaked by the storm is just beginning to emerge

Sam Jones

07, Oct, 2016 @4:40 PM

Article image
Haiti death toll rises to 842 after Hurricane Matthew, reports say
Efforts to access worst-affected areas have been hampered by flooding and damage after storm devastated parts of island

Sam Jones and Amanda Holpuch

07, Oct, 2016 @8:23 AM

Article image
Bahamas hit by storm as Florida braces for Hurricane Matthew's arrival
More than 2 million people along Georgia, South Carolina and Florida coasts are advised to flee as hurricane strengthens

Richard Luscombe in Miami and Sam Jones

06, Oct, 2016 @11:18 AM

Article image
Hurricane Matthew closes in on south-east US after Haiti target
World Weatherwatch Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in path of hurricane which caused devastation in the Caribbean country of Haiti

Hannah Masterson (MetDesk)

05, Oct, 2016 @8:30 PM

Article image
Hurricane Matthew: UN says 350,000 Haitians in need of assistance
At least 16 people feared dead, thousands staying in shelters and water in short supply as storm sweeps across Caribbean

Sam Jones and Amanda Holpuch

05, Oct, 2016 @2:02 PM

Article image
Cholera outbreaks in Haiti follow devastation of Hurricane Matthew
Fears that disease could spread as storm leaves almost 900 dead and tens of thousands displaced on Caribbean island

Richard Luscombe in Florida and Mark Townsend

08, Oct, 2016 @9:08 PM

Article image
Aftermath of hurricane Sandy leaves Haiti facing new disaster

While the world's attention has focused on the US, the suffering and consequences for the Caribbean nation are far greater

Jonathan Watts in Port-au-Prince

02, Nov, 2012 @8:22 PM

Article image
Food crisis looming in Haiti as aid slow to reach Hurricane Matthew's victims
The UN’s $120m aid appeal is only 40% funded, causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ for the 750,000 Haitians in dire need of support

Ben Quinn in Les Cayes

13, Dec, 2016 @1:29 PM

Florida braces for hurricane as storm claims life in Haiti
Florida was bracing itself for the season's first hurricane after Cuba took a battering from furious winds and torrential rain.

Richard Luscombe in Miami

29, Aug, 2006 @9:32 AM