Sunday 25 February 2018

Haitians struggle to clear up as anger grows over hurricane aid delays

United Nations police stand with residents in Sous-Roche, outside Les Cayes (AP)
United Nations police stand with residents in Sous-Roche, outside Les Cayes (AP)

People throughout Haiti's devastated south-western peninsula have formed makeshift brigades to clear debris as anger grows over the delay in aid for remote communities more than a week after Hurricane Matthew hit.

Community groups are clearing tree limbs from streets and placing them into piles while others gather scraps of wood to start rebuilding homes destroyed by the Category 4 storm.

Israel Banissa, a carpenter who lives near the small mountain town of Moron, said a Red Cross assessment team stopped outside his village to ask people questions but did not leave any supplies.

"There's no aid that's come here," he said as he sawed wood to help rebuild his home and dozens of others. "I don't think they care about the people up here."

The UN humanitarian agency in Geneva has made an emergency appeal for nearly 120 million US dollars (£98 million) in aid, saying about 750,000 people in south-west Haiti alone will need "life-saving assistance and protection" in the next three months.

UN officials said earlier that at least 1.4 million people across the region need assistance and 2.1 million overall have been affected by the hurricane. About 175,500 people remain in shelters.

The National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince raised the official nationwide death toll to 473, which included at least 244 deaths in Grand-Anse, but local officials have said the toll in Grand-Anse alone tops 500.

Those who survived the storm still face great challenges, including going days without food, which is slowly reaching remote communities, but there is also a growing need for medical supplies.

Concern is growing about an increase in cases of cholera, which has already killed about 10,000 people since 2010.

Dominique Legros, a top cholera official at the World Health Organisation, said the agency is sending a million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti and that safe drinking water and treatment of those affected by the disease were top priorities.

Speaking to the UN Security Council, the envoy for Haiti, Sandra Honore, said the health impact of Hurricane Matthew "cannot be overestimated".

She said hundreds of suspected cholera cases have been reported, and "we are already seeing the first deaths".

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York on Monday that a "massive response" was needed to help Haiti emerge from the storm's aftermath. He noted that crops and food reserves were destroyed and that at least 300 schools have been damaged.

"At least 1.4 million people need assistance at this time," he said. "These numbers and needs are growing as more affected areas are reached. Tensions are already mounting as people await help."

Meanwhile, the US has put on hold a new policy of deporting Haitians who are in the States without permission although the government intends to return to it in the future, US homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson said.


Press Association

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