Health conditions worsen as aid trickles into remote Haiti

2016-10-11 20:02
Two women rest on the floor at a police station in Marfranc serving as a temporary shelter for residents whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. (Dieu Nalio Chery, AP)

Two women rest on the floor at a police station in Marfranc serving as a temporary shelter for residents whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. (Dieu Nalio Chery, AP)

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Dame Marie - In this most western tip of Haiti, 300 patients with festering wounds lay silently on beds at the main hospital in the seaside village of Dame Marie waiting for medicine a week after Hurricane Matthew hit the remote peninsula.

Among the injured was Beauvoir Luckner, a cobbler and farmer who walked 12km in three days after a tree fell on his house, crushing his leg and killing his mother. The leg might have to be amputated, but all doctors can do is clean his wounds because the hospital has run out of everything, including painkillers.

"There's no water, no antibiotics," Dr Herby Jean told The Associated Press. "Everything is depleted ... We hear helicopters flying overhead, but we're not getting anything."

There was also no power and frustration grew on Tuesday as food, medicine and fresh water kept arriving at the main city in Haiti's southwest peninsula, but was slow to reach increasingly desperate communities like Dame Marie.

Luckner lay on a mattress with no sheets and a bandage around his left leg.

"It took a lot of misery to get here and now that I'm here, there's still misery," he said.

Meanwhile, at a cramped police station serving as a makeshift clinic in the nearby town of Marfranc, Darline Derosier fastened IV drips to jail cell bars, wiped the brows of cholera patients and tended to the wounds of those injured in the storm.

She was the only health worker helping about 40 patients inside the station bereft of police as she waited for help to arrive. Among the patients was an elderly woman lying unconscious on a jail cell floor with a leg bandaged in an old rag and a man with gashes around his neck, his eyes fluttering.

"People will die soon if we don't get some aid," an overwhelmed Derosier told the AP.


Aid organisations have been mobilising. Dr Dominique Legros, a top cholera official at the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday that the agency had decided to send 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti "as soon as possible" and said safe drinking water and treatment of those affected by the disease are top priorities.

Earlier, the UN humanitarian agency in Geneva made an emergency appeal for nearly $120m in aid, saying about 750 000 people in southwest Haiti alone will need "life-saving assistance and protection" in the next three months.

UN officials have said earlier that at least 1.4 million people across the region need assistance and that 2.1 million overall have been affected by the hurricane. Some 175 000 people remain in shelters.

The National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince raised the official nationwide death toll to 372, which included at least 198 deaths in Grand-Anse. But local officials have said the toll in Grand-Anse alone tops 500.

Experts also said the hurricane has increased the risk of a spike in cases of cholera, which has already killed roughly 10 000 people and sickened more than 800 000 since 2010.

"In this context of the hurricane, and therefore flooding, therefore potential contamination of the drinking water by faecal sludge, we are quite concerned about the risk of further increase of cholera cases," the WHO's Legros told reporters in Geneva.

Roosevelt Zamos of the Civil Protection Agency said there were 40 cases of cholera in Jeremie alone. He said eight people have died of cholera in Grand-Anse since the storm.

It can take from 12 hours to five days for cholera symptoms to appear after ingesting contaminated food or water, according to the WHO.

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

Little or no aid

People in the southern seaside community of Les Anglais and surrounding areas said little to no aid had reached them by Monday. An aid group tried to distribute food and other emergency supplies by boat on Sunday, but it was forced to leave after a large crowd gathered and began to fight.

An estimated 158 people died in Les Anglais, said two police officers who declined to give their names because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

Francis Jean, a 42-year-old farmer and taxi driver, was awaiting help after he, his wife and three daughters survived the storm but lost their roof and all their belongings.

"You can't even explain what happened here. I've never seen anything like this in my life," he said. "This town doesn't exist anymore. There's nothing."

Read more on:    haiti  |  weather  |  hurricanes  |  aid

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