Haiti: « Isolated populations in danger »
As Haiti begins to recover from the passage of Hurricane Matthew, the impact of the disaster is still uncertain for large sections of the population, which remain isolated and without any means of communication. Hélène Robin, who is coordinating the emergency operations from Handicap International’s head office in Lyon, gave us a situation update.
Hélène Robin, coordinating the emergency operations from Handicap International’s head office | © Brice Blondel / Handicap International
Hélène, how is the situation developing in Haiti?
The first assessment teams in the field crossed the river La Digue in Petit Goave and aerial reconnaissance missions began on Thursday afternoon (05/10). The Grand’Anse and Sud departments are worst affected and the aerial images we’ve received unfortunately confirm our fears.
A total of more than one million people have been exposed to extremely violent hurricane winds. Torrential rain, with up to 40 cm a day falling on the regions of Nippes and Gonave Island, is likely to have caused floods and landslides.
Are we getting information from the field?
The first testimonies gathered by our teams in Haiti reveal heavy material losses. On Île-à-Vache which lies in the Baie de Cayes, the coastal villages appear to have been completely destroyed by floods. The town of Jérémie has suffered massive damage. The two main hospitals in the department of Grand’Anse (Jérémie and Dame-Marie) appear to be no longer in operation.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still cut off from the world and all humanitarian aid. They need immediate assistance because they probably lack drinking water and do not have roofs to protect them from the weather.
There is also a heightened risk of epidemics and stocks of medication and prevention equipment have probably been destroyed by the hurricane or remain inaccessible to much of the population.
What action is Handicap International going to take next?
An emergency team is expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Friday morning to provide backup support to teams already in the field. They will assess the scale of the disaster, organise our immediate humanitarian response and help all humanitarian organisations access isolated areas.
It is essential that as much of affected population as possible, particularly the most vulnerable people, have access to humanitarian aid, to meet their essential and immediate need for food, shelter and medical care.