By Shannielle Thompson
Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has been devastated by another disaster: Hurricane Matthew. The country that was already straining to recover from the horrors of the 2010 earthquake suffered damage when the Category 4 storm passed over the Caribbean on October 3. Although the entire island felt the effects of the storm, the southwestern end was more ravaged than anywhere else. Cities destroyed as buildings lay in ruins and many families displaced, death toll rises as waters ebb, and another cholera outbreak attacks survivors – all this as the plea for aid and aid-workers heighten.
In the wake of what is considered to be the fiercest storm to hit the Caribbean in a decade, Reuters reported that after winds measuring at least 145 mph and torrential rains, the island that formerly comprised of 10 million people is in need of grave humanitarian assistance. The most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula, Kedner Frenel, said the death tally in the region and throughout fifteen of the eighteen municipalities in Sud, recorded 522 and 386 people respectively. The majority of fatalities occurred in their capitals, Jeremie and Las Cayes, where authorities started burying the dead in mass graves. Other areas of the island recorded 92 dead. However, a final count is still unavailable as telecommunication has been cut off.
“Four people are missing, 211 are injured and more than 60,000 people are now displaced from the killer storm,” a member of Haiti’s Civil Protection Service, Joseph Edgard Celestin, told CNN. In addition to approximately 20,000 flattened homes, commercial buildings, and flooded villages, crops were hewed and livestock swept away by raging waters and roaring winds, contributing to mounting tensions among the people as need for food and shelter increases.
Additionally, the contamination of the country’s water system along with the decomposition of human and animal bodies has sparked a steady rise in the already prevalent Cholera epidemic that plagues the island. Believed to have been introduced to the island via Nepalese United Nations troops in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the disease took 10,000 lives through consumption of contaminated water and food, according to the BBC. As of October 10, cholera has already killed approximately 13 people. In a plea for help, Herve Fourcand, a Haitian Senator cited cholera as the country’s biggest problem as overwhelming amounts of ill civilians poured into the Port-a-Piment hospital by the hour on Sunday.
The world heard the bellowing cry of Haitians over the past week, and support for the nation is seeping in slowly. Pledges from other countries and international organizations around the world have been noted as an estimated 1.4 million people await humanitarian aid – five hundred thousand of whom are south-western Haitian children directly affected by the catastrophe, according to UNICEF.
France and the U.S. have pledged to send aid. According to Relief Web, French Ambassador Elisabeth Beton affirmed her country’s pledge with the arrival of 69 tons of supplies via cargo jet, United States’ government aid is still “on the way”. Dutch and Columbian contributions also arrived and the neighboring Dominican Republic has also issued a helping hand. United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for $120 million in assistance, while the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) has pledged £75,000. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in collaboration with WHO mobilized aid workers on the ground throughout the island.
Haiti is no stranger to the horrors of a natural disaster. Likewise, Haitians are no stranger to empty promises either. Many organizations around the world collected money on Haiti’s behalf, and though many made good on their promises, a few, including the American Red Cross in particular, have come under grave scrutiny as to the allocations of the almost half billion dollars they collected which built only six new homes, according Common Dreams. The Red Cross organization raised $6.9 million for Haiti since Hurricane Matthew began.