Hurricane Matthew: mobile teams help treat the injured
Hurricane Matthew, which struck both the southern and northern areas of Haiti on 4 October, has caused the biggest humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake. In the Les Cayes region alone, more than 3,000 casualties have been recorded, while the hospitals are struggling with extremely limited resources. Handicap International is beginning its operation to provide rehabilitation care to the injured. In addition, the distribution of more than 1,000 kits enabling emergency repairs to be made to people’s homes is about to get underway.
Situation catastrophique dans le Nord Ouest | © B.Almeras / Handicap International
The situation in the south-west and north-west of Haiti is desperate - the figures speak for themselves. According to the United Nations, though it is now two weeks since the hurricane struck, 1.4 million people are still in need of humanitarian aid and 750,000 people require immediate assistance. In the Les Cayes region, the authorities have reported more than 3,000 casualties. Handicap International’s own teams have seen for themselves the extreme scarcity of healthcare facilities, which have only meagre resources with which to treat their patients.
Including the most isolated in the humanitarian response
“For this reason we need to assist the local health structures: supply them with suitable equipment, support them in caring for people with injuries or disabilities and, if necessary, provide training in rehabilitation care,” Hélène Robin, head of emergency response operations at Handicap International, explains. Handicap International’s intervention is now underway with the deployment of mobile teams. The first of these has started work in the hospitals and collective shelters. Their aims are to provide initial rehabilitation care to those with injuries and disabilities, supply them with walking aids to help them get around and identify the most vulnerable people, who do not have access to the assistance they need. A second team is currently being set up in order to step up provision in the very near future.
“It is vital that those who cannot get around or are isolated are not left out,” Hélène Robin points out. “As soon as we have the necessary funding, additional mobile teams will be deployed in remote areas, tasked with identifying those who are injured or vulnerable.”
Once identified, they will be supported by the organisation or referred to the most appropriate health structure for their needs. A team of psychosocial support specialists will organise specific activities designed to help people overcome psychological trauma.
Provision of 1,000 shelter kits for the most vulnerable
According to the United Nations, 90% of homes in the town of Jérémie have been destroyed. Around 1,250,000 people, including 500,000 children, need access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. For some their houses have been totally destroyed, while for others their homes are in such a state of disrepair that families simply cannot return. A thousand emergency shelter kits will be distributed by Handicap International as quickly as possible to enable local people to regain access to sustainable sanitation facilities. These kits contain the equipment needed to build emergency shelters or repair houses (toolboxes, ropes, fasteners, tarpaulins etc.). Hygiene kits are also needed to protect people from cholera and contain a potentially widespread epidemic.
A catastrophic situation in the north-west
The north-west is one of the poorest areas in Haiti. The devastation wreaked by the hurricane has simply acerbated an already highly precarious situation, with homes either destroyed or very badly damaged and a lack of hygiene and access to food. “We are studying the options for interventions in this area which so far has had very little coverage by the humanitarian agencies,” Hélène Robin explains, “in order to prevent the situation of the affected communities and their most vulnerable residents from deteriorating any further.”