At least 473 people are now known to have died as Hurricane Matthew leveled swaths of southern Haiti last week, officials said, as hard-hit communities struggled to rebuild homes and access food and clean water. Haiti is observing three days of mourning for victims of the deadly storm, which also left 75 missing and 330 injured according to the provisional toll from the nation’s civil protection agency.
More than 175,500 people remain in shelters across the country, many of them in schools — which is keeping nearly 100,000 children from resuming classes. Interim President Jocelerme Privert said those affected would receive humanitarian aid but warned against extending emergency help without a plan for long-term reconstruction. “If we continue to bring emergency food aid to victims — without taking steps to recapitalize them, for money to circulate in affected areas — the risk of exodus to large cities is still there,” Privert told journalists.
Privert said the Haitian government has sent 40 containers of food aid to affected regions, which he said cost the treasury more than $400,000. Matthew struck as the impoverished nation was struggling to stifle a cholera outbreak that authorities fear will now worsen, with the World Health Organization pledging Tuesday to send a million doses of cholera vaccines.
Two water purification stations also arrived in Port-au-Prince Tuesday as part of France’s first shipment of humanitarian aid, which comprised some 69 tons of supplies including medicine and anti-cholera kits. Each station produces 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of drinking water per day.
But damage to roads and communications has hamstrung deliveries of supplies in some areas, according to an AFP journalist in the southern coastal village of Groteaux. Many residents of that community were still struggling to find food and clean water as they scrambled to repair their battered homes.
Many Groteaux homes sported new tin roofs bought at inflated prices, but poorer families could not afford new metal sheets to shelter them from intense sun, tropical rains or bloodthirsty mosquitoes. “Only God knows what we will eat,” Jean Nelson, 68, said. “We are eating only coconuts that fell.” “We don’t have money for rice,” he said, adding that the price of the staple has doubled in the past week.
Nelson said that even though roads are now accessible, with cell phone coverage also starting to improve, no Haitian officials or relief workers have visited the hard-hit town. The UN envoy Sandra Honore urged the Security Council on Tuesday to keep UN peacekeeping forces in Haiti for another
six months to help cope with storm damage, ahead of a vote on renewing the mission’s mandate.