As disaster strikes again, the impecunious nation of Haiti is left with a ravaged infrastructure, leaving thousands homeless, displaced or living in ramshackle shelters.
The damaging winds from Hurricane Matthew on October 6 left thousands without a home or food and unable to seek medical attention. Bridges were destroyed along with cell towers and power lines. Those who survived the storm’s wreckage were left with nothing.
Haiti is a small island located in the Caribbean between Cuba and Puerto Rico and considered the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Sadly, more than 300 people lost their lives; families have been torn apart, separated and coping with the death of loved ones. Small amounts of relief are providing food, medical supplies and temporary housing for those remaining.
Conor Shapiro, who runs the largest hospital on the southern peninsula, St. Boniface Hospital in Fond des Blancs has seen very few patients “…because roads are blocked, and a key bridge washed out. That’s just the south, and that’s just what they know about.” A concerned Shapiro hoped for a more collaborative international effort.
Hospitals are overcrowded, and many are flooded with muddy water preventing the people from receiving the medical attention they need.
Mourad Wahba, U.N. deputy special representative for Haiti, described Hurricane Matthew ‘as the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the earthquake in 2010.’ Although evacuations were put into place, some residents had no other place to seek refuge.
Haiti had not fully recovered from the 2010 mag seven earthquakes that killed over 200,000 people. Since the earthquake, there were many working to rebuild homes, re-grow crops and reconstruct what was literally destroyed. Those that lost their homes were living in make-shift structures that were unable to withstand the 145 mile an hour winds of Hurricane Matthew.
The aftermath of the storm left a ruined country with death, destruction and contaminated water escalating the outbreak of Cholera which has been ongoing since 2010. Contaminated water poses the biggest threat as it breeds illness and disease.
David Nabarro, a special advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General, stated that the measure of cholera is difficult to scale due to remote areas of Haiti yet to be reported. There are main streets that continue to be impassable which slows down the distribution of medicine and aid for those in need.
Cholera is an acute infection of the small intestine that usually comes from contaminated water. It is often fatal and characterized by profuse vomiting and diarrhea. The bacterium, Vibrio cholera is most often found in water or foods contaminated by feces from someone infected with cholera. It spreads easily in countries with deficient water treatment, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene which are all basic fundamentals to prevent disease.
The New York Times reported that in the town of Rendel, where Cholera was already rampant, there is a makeshift concrete clinic treating crowds of patients with few nurses. These nurses reportedly work long shifts with a single lantern. They also reported that some of these patients refuse treatment for Cholera because of a lack of the ‘vomiting’ symptom and risk fatality.
Eric Valcourt, a Roman Catholic priest, runs a clinic and school that serves as a shelter for those too sick or poor to leave. He told the Times “Ninety percent of our village is gone and many left by foot to escape the disease and devastation. The rest died from cholera or the hurricane. The village was left with only one public official.”
According to the CDC, in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Haiti was afflicted with the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history and has since struggled to overcome it.
Since 2010, close to 10,000 people have died from Cholera, and hundreds of thousands have been diagnosed. Cholera is now taking over the areas that were destroyed by the hurricane, through the mountains and coastal towns, causing residents to feel hopeless. Many are trekking miles to reach a paved road in the hope of relief and aid, while carrying livestock, torn bags of clothing, and sick children.
The after effects of Hurricane Matthew left brokenness that with the help and efforts of many can heal and rebuild. Together we can help those who have suffered, and no act is too small.