Caribbean News Service
JEREMIE, Haiti, Oct 10 2016 – Helicopters ferried in food and medicine to devastated southwestern Haiti on Monday and aid officials said they were trying to get it to increasingly desperate communities still isolated almost a week after the blow from Hurricane Matthew.
Power was still out, water and food were scarce, and officials said that 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 that 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.
U.N. officials said 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 remained in shelters Monday.
Concern also was growing that the hurricane’s devastation has caused an increase in increase in cholera cases and deaths in the country, where an ongoing 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 have 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 ingesting 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 need clothing and especially shoes because many have cut their feet or stepped on old nails in the scattered debris.
“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.
Fisherman Dominique Pomper said the mayor came to distribute some rice but that was it. Among other things, he said, people here need water. The surging ocean contaminated their wells, making water undrinkable.
Pomper said he tried to stay at home with his family during the storm but they eventually fled as the water rushed(asterisk) 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 U.S. 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. (AP)