Haiti: Many Unmet Needs Two Months After Hurricane

Jeanty Junior Augustin

Two months after Hurricane Matthew devastated southwestern Haiti, thousands of people are still without adequate shelter, food and potable water, and some remote communities have not received assistance.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are witnessing a deterioration of living conditions in the heavily affected areas. In Sud and Grand’Anse departments, MSF set up mobile clinics to evaluate the general health conditions of children. In the last week, they examined and treated 163 children under age five with respiratory complications, 60 percent of whom had upper respiratory tract infections and five percent of whom had pneumonia or bronchitis.

"These complications are mostly tied to a lack of adequate shelter, in addition to cold nights in the mountains," said Chiara Burzio, MSF medical coordinator. "Other children had diarrhea and skin infections caused by poor access to clean water.”

Securing potable water supplies is already a chronic problem for many Haitian communities, one that only worsened in the wake of the hurricane. Pipe networks were destroyed and water reservoirs filled with sand.

While MSF specializes in providing medical treatment, the unmet needs for water and sanitation led MSF to take emergency action to repair water supply networks and distribute water purification tablets to thousands of families in Baradères, in Nippes department, among other places.

Many families who lost their homes in the hurricane are still living in temporary shelters, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Displaced people who have taken shelter in government buildings, such as schools, face pressure from local communities demanding that authorities evacuate the structures. With nowhere to go, these people need a long-term housing solution.

The number of patients at MSF’s cholera treatment center (CTC) in Port-à-Piment has risen since early November. In the last week, the center admitted an average of seven new patients per day, some of whom came from neighboring communes. The patients arrive at oral rehydration centers that MSF opened in the mountains and are then transferred to the CTC in one of two special ambulances.

After the hurricane, MSF opened a CTC with 19 beds in Baradères in partnership with the ministry of health. Two months later, MSF has begun shutting down its emergency operations in Nippes department as the anticipated cholera epidemic did not strike the area, possibly due to prevention measures.

In the past two months, MSF has treated more than 190 cholera patients in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and an MSF team is currently stationed on the island of Gonâve to respond to the increase in cholera cases and deaths in the area.

“Our ability to combat cholera depends first and foremost on cohesion between medical care, to keep patients from dying of cholera, and prevention measures, especially to improve water supply networks and sanitation for communities living in precarious conditions," said Stuart Garman, MSF project coordinator.

In response to Hurricane Matthew, MSF's teams have carried out the following activities:

  • Seen more than 4,500 patients in the departments of Nippes, Grand’Anse and Sud. A total of 800 patients were treated for wounds. Other common conditions treated at mobile clinics include respiratory infections and diarrhea.
  • Transferred 30 patients by helicopter, 18 of whom were taken to MSF’s trauma center in Tabarre, in Port-au-Prince.
  • Provided support to the hospital in Port-à-Piment, including assisting in 14 births.
  • Set up a cholera treatment center in Port-à-Piment and treated 360 suspected cholera cases.
  • Built a 19-bed cholera treatment center (CTC) in Baradères.
  • Assisted the health ministry at the Diquini CTC in Port-au-Prince in caring for 190 cholera patients.
  • Provided hospital hygiene and sanitation support at the CTCs in the communes of Moron, Chambellan, Dame-Marie, Anse-d’Hainault, Les Irois and Abricots.
  • Provided temporary shelters to 1,400 families in the Sud department and 4,500 hygiene kits in the Port-à-Piment valley.
  • Distributed millions of liters of potable water at centralized reservoirs in Sud, Grand'Anse, Baradères and Fond Tortue.
  • Repaired and restored 24 public water sources—17 in Baradères and seven in Fond Tortue.
  • Repaired two water catchment systems in the communes of Port-à-Piment.
  • Distributed 4.5 million water purification tablets in the Sud, Grand'Anse and Nippes departments.
  • Distributed reconstruction supplies, including pipes for rainwater collection and sheet metal, cooking and hygiene kits, for 850 families in the Cayémites Islands. 

Medecins Sans Frontieres doctor Medjy Josil attends to 5 year old Marckensley who is accompaigned by his grandmother 67 year old Adieumène during a mobile clinic visit to Coteaux.
Jeanty Junior Augustin