Hurricane Matthew: “Access to affected populations is our top priority”
Handicap International’s teams already present in Haiti are preparing to assess the damage and the essential needs of affected populations. A backup team is expected to arrive in Haiti tomorrow at 6pm (local time) to help organise the response and facilitate access by humanitarian organisations to areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew.
Audrey Lecomte (3rd from left), Handicap International team’s coordinator, as she prepares to travel to Haiti | © B. Almeras / Handicap International
Interview with Audrey Lecomte, Handicap International team’s coordinator, as she prepares to travel to Haiti.
Audrey, what is the situation like in Haiti?
It is extremely difficult to assess the situation for the moment because very little information is reaching us from the worst hit areas. Most humanitarian organisations have not been able to access the coastal areas, which took a direct hit. The main road, the Nationale 2, is blocked near Petit Goâve. Telecommunication networks have also been severely disrupted.
How will Handicap International respond to the disaster?
We will start by assessing needs in the field, particularly for families affected by the hurricane. In Port-au-Prince, Handicap International’s teams are already assessing the impact of the hurricane on people displaced by the earthquake of 2010, who still live in camps near the city.
We will also facilitate access to affected areas and populations. This will be a top priority for all humanitarian actors over the next few days. Because of our expertise, UN agencies have called on our organisation to provide them with logistics support.
What impact will the disaster have on the lives of people living in Haiti?
We will need to provide immediate physical rehabilitation for people with injuries; access to drinking water and shelter are also essential needs that require an immediate response.
Flooding has also raised longer-term risks: fields have been destroyed and many people risk being deprived of their livelihoods. Stagnant water raises the risk of epidemics: cholera and dengue are already serious problems in Haiti and there could be a new outbreak.
We need to make sure affected populations immediately receive food aid and supplies to prevent these diseases, such as medication, mosquito nets and oral rehydration salts.