Haiti: Food, Water, and Shelter Worries in Isolated Villages

More than two weeks after Hurricane Matthew tore through areas of southern Haiti, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams continue to treat people for wounds from the storm and diseases linked to its aftermath, and are prioritizing reaching isolated villages that are in urgent need of aid.

In the hardest hit departments of Haiti—Grande Anse and Sud—many villages remain cut off from the rest of the country. MSF medical teams who have reached these areas, in some cases by helicopter, report that food, water and shelter are the most urgent needs. Crops and food stocks have been wiped out and road access is blocked, while water sources such as reservoirs or wells have been damaged or destroyed.

Infected wounds and fractures, gastritis, and upper respiratory tract infections are the most common conditions linked to the hurricane in these areas. Access to health care is almost nonexistent, but without skilled and continued care, infected wounds can lead to sepsis and death while broken bones will lead to disabilities. MSF has so far carried out 1,614 medical consultations in the Grande Anse, Sud, and Nippes departments.

MSF teams, which include 10 water and sanitation specialists, are distributing clean water and water purification tablets, cleaning or repairing water sources, and installing water storage systems.

MSF has treated 190 suspected cholera patients in Port-à-Piment since the hurricane and is providing support for clean water and sanitation services to other cholera treatment centers in the area.

While the number of patients at MSF’s cholera treatment center in Port-à-Piment has decreased, there is a risk that cholera cases will increase again or progress more into areas that were less affected by the hurricane. MSF is continuing epidemiological surveillance activities, including in the Ouest and Nord-Ouest departments, the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and the Artibonite area.

Moreover, with destroyed homes and torrential rains, concern grows over the risks of other diseases such as dengue, malaria, and pneumonia.

National authorities have reported that 175,000 people were displaced by the hurricane and that 1.4 million are in need of aid. Access to medical care has been compromised as well; the World Health Organization reports that 23 health centers have been damaged or partially destroyed.

MSF has worked in Haiti for more 19 years and runs six projects in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, including Drouillard hospital for severe burns, the Tabarre trauma hospital, the Martissant emergency center, the Centre de Référence des Urgences en Obstétrique (CRUO), and the Pran Men’m clinic for sexual and gender-based violence survivors. MSF also supports the Diquini center for cholera patients.