Hurricane Matthew wreaks havoc in Haiti; death toll continues to increase

Courtesy of Flickr|Freedom House
Courtesy of Flickr|Freedom House

The small country of Haiti has been hit hard with huge casualties in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The category four hurricane made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday. With winds upwards of 125 mph, the largely ramshackle architecture of the little Haitian villages could not withstand the onslaught.

As a result, the turbulent winds and heavy rains destroyed homes, flooded whole villages and swept away vital resources like cattle crops. Additionally, the worst-hit areas in the southern section of the island were largely isolated from the rest of the country due to flooding, making it difficult to send aid.

As one of the poorest nations in the world, the country lacks the infrastructure needed to meet the national emergency. Although communication and power have been knocked out in isolated areas, it is clear that the death toll is continuing to rise.

Initially, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection Service, the death count was estimated at about 336 people. This was likely due to deaths from structure collapses as well as the uprooting of trees and destruction of houses.

However, numerous media outlets are now reporting that this number has risen to more than 900 and is projected to increase. Faced with massive death tolls, the Haitian government has been forced to bury its dead in mass grave sites. It is also estimated that 60,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

This is amidst mounting concerns over cholera epidemics. Such living conditions will likely facilitate the spread of the disease. Immediately, the Haitian Health Ministry voiced concerns over the possibility of cholera outbreaks claiming more Haitian lives.

With the mixture of sewage and water supplies caused by Hurricane Matthew’s destruction, there is a huge risk for the rapid spread of the illness. Indeed, because cholera is a disease with a short incubation period, outbreaks come rapidly, often claiming numerous lives in their wake when treatment is unavailable.

Haiti is still reeling from the devastation wrought by the 2010 earthquake, when UN peacekeepers unintentionally brought cholera to the small island nation. Since then, cholera has claimed approximately 10,000 Haitian lives. This number is already on the rise as the disease is resurfacing. Already, 13 cholera-related deaths and 62 additional cases of infection have been reported by the Haitian Health Ministry officials.

Even for those unaffected by illness, food shortages look to pose another major obstacle. On the island’s Tiburon peninsula, almost all crops have been completely wiped out, and the number of remaining livestock is scant. Food shortages are devastating for Haiti, a country whose food supplies were already low even before the hurricane.

The UN is calling this the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Faced with this crisis, countries across the globe are reaching out to send aid. The Red Cross is planning on sending $6.9 million worth of aid, while UNICEF is looking to raise $5 million to meet the needs of the estimated 500,000 children who have been impacted by the storm.

In addition to monetary aid, the United States is sending 250 troops to provide direct assistance. France is adding to this total by dispatching 60 troops of their own to Haiti. Even as Haiti still works to combat the crisis, the nation’s government officials have declared the country to be in not only a state of national emergency, but also a state of mourning for a three-day span to honor the many victims.

Moving forward for Haiti, it is already clear that the repercussions of the hurricane will be great. After working to rebuild infrastructure after the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew has forced Haitian progress several steps backwards.


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