Three weeks after hurricane Matthew swept over the South-West of Haiti, thousands of people are still severely affected by inadequate shelter, insufficient food and drinking water. Some remote communities are still cut off and inaccessible. Médecins Sans Frontières is concerned that the combination of lack of shelter, safe drinking water, food and access will lead to a deterioration of the general health status of the population in hurricane affected provinces of Sud, Grande Anse and Nippes.
Médecins Sans Frontières teams see signs food scarcity: most of the crops are destroyed or flooded and the vast majority of the livestock is missing or dead. “During our medical consultations, our patients tell us they don’t know how to feed their families”, says Emmanuel Massart, Médecins Sans Frontières Project Coordinator in Grand Anse. “Families have lost livestock, fruit trees and their entire personal reserves during the storm, and what is left is decaying because of the insufficient protection from the rain.” In Sud and Grand Anse, Médecins Sans Frontières started to monitor the nutritional status of children under five during mobile clinics in order to treat them with ready-to-use therapeutic food if necessary.
The force-4 hurricane blew away the roofs of most houses in the South-West of the country and the heavy rains further damaged the rare houses that were still standing. “Entire families have lost their homes. Their houses were totally destroyed. They now living in temporary shacks or are sharing overcrowded spaces with other families” says Renate Sinke, Médecins Sans Frontières Project Coordinator in Nippes. Wells, water networks and reservoirs have also been damaged. “The hurricane damaged the precarious water supply systems. These systems were further damaged with the floods that followed the hurricane. The people did not have access to clean water”, reports Yves Lyre-Marcellus, Médecins Sans Frontières Water and Sanitation specialist in Nippes. We assessed six wells on the coastline from Port à Piment to Les Coteaux, of which three were contaminated by salt water. In the valleys or mountains, water sources are sometimes mixed with unsafe river water or debris from landslides.
Remote villages were already hard to reach before the hurricane but are now nearly inaccessible. “The two roads leading to the Baradères district are currently cut off. People can’t come nor leave the district. Supplies cannot get into the villages. Trade cannot happen anymore.” highlights Sinke. Inaccessibility of remote villages is also impacting the provision of health care. “Upon arrival in Pourcine, a village in the mountains, we treated fourteen people with serious injuries and one woman who had a miscarriage”, explains Massart. “If open wounds are not treated properly, the patient goes into sepsis. Normally a limp should be removed; but if there is no access to care, the patient will likely die.”
As the number of suspect cholera patients in Médecins Sans Frontières’ Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) in Port à Piment decreased to six patients on 25th October, the neighborhood town of Chardonnières reported forty suspect cases during the day. As the epidemic is unpredictable in current conditions, it is crucial to monitor new cases, provide sufficient treatment centres, access to these facilities and safe drinking water.
Three weeks in Médecins Sans Frontières teams have:
- Consulted more than 2500 patients in 27 villages
- Referred ten patients by helicopter to Port au Prince: nine persons to the MSF trauma centre in Tabarre and one person to the MSF centre for severe burns
- Distributed temporary shelter to 1,400 families in Sud
- Set up two Cholera Treatment Centers (CTC) in Port à Piment and Baradères and treated 229 patients with suspected cholera
- Provided training, water and sanitation support to six CTC in Grand Anse and one CTC in Nippes
- Distributed medical supplies and non-food items to two health centers and two CTC in Artibonite
- Set up four water bladders in Grande Anse and one in Port à Piment, each providing 15mᶟ of drinking water per day
- Distributed 900,000 Aquatabs in Sud- Reinforced its cholera surveillance activities in the ten provinces of the country