Needs in Haiti remain vast one month after Hurricane Matthew: UN warns

As Haiti struggles to recover from the massive destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew, which pummelled the French-speaking Caribbean country one month ago on Friday, the United Nations has warned that while its seems as if “the world has moved on,” Haiti’s needs remain vast.

The UN said on Friday that this is exemplified by the nearly 600,000 children being stalked by disease, hunger and malnutrition, and in need of assistance.

“One month after the hurricane, life for more than half a million children in Haiti is still far from back to normal,” said Marc Vincent, Haiti representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“Too many children are still homeless, hungry, out of school and in danger,” he added. “We are scaling up our response and are determined to help as many of them as possible, as fast as we can.”

UNICEF said there have been at least 1,000 suspected cholera cases among children in the past month.

Out of 219 cholera treatment centers in the country, 18 have been damaged in the worst-hit departments of Grand’Anse and South, further complicating efforts to contain the disease, UNICEF said.

The UN said the total destruction the Category 4 storm inflicted on crops, food stock and livestock in some of the worst affected areas have left over 800,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and more than 112,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition.

An estimated 50,000 children have been left homeless and are staying in temporary shelters, said the UN, adding that another 3,500 children living in institutions need help accessing nutrition, water and sanitation services.

The UN said up to 80 percent of hospitals and health centers in Grand’Anse have lost their roofs. An additional seven health centers in Grand’Anse, four in South and three in Nippes are no longer operational, the UN said.

More than 700 schools have been affected, and about 86 schools have been used as temporary shelters, causing school disruption for at least 150,000 children.

The UN said UNICEF is working with national and other partners to provide basic assistance to the most vulnerable children.

They are providing 100,000 people a day with safe water, organizing a cholera vaccination campaign that will be launched next week to immunize up to 900,000 people, and providing cholera prevention kits that contain water purification tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts, the UN said.

It said between 100 and 200 kits are distributed every day.

In addition, the UN said UNICEF is delivering an integrated package of services to prevent and treat malnutrition among children under five, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers living in the hurricane-affected areas; replenishing vaccines and restoring the cold chain so that routine immunization can resume in the health centers that are still operational and in mobile clinics; and distributing emergency medical supplies to 18 health centers.

The UN said joint actions also include setting up mobile child friendly spaces, where vulnerable children and families can receive psychosocial support, and training 60 volunteers to staff them; and repairing 22 schools and distributing school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits so that children can resume their learning as soon as possible.

UNICEF said requires over US$23 million through the end of the year to meet children’s humanitarian needs following the hurricane, including for the cholera response. So far, it has received a mere US$6 million, it said.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Geneva that, according to the latest figures from the authorities in Haiti, Matthew has so far caused 546 deaths, and left 438 people injured.

He said that needs are vast, especially in the areas of quality water, education, shelter, child protection, health and nutrition.

Laerke said a total of 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, with an estimated 40 percent of them being children.

The UN emergency humanitarian appeal for US$120 million is far only 33 percent funded, the UN said.

Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative in Haiti, said the country Haiti needs support to restore and rebuild its health services at various levels, ranging from cholera treatment centers to community health centers to major hospitals.

In the country’s South, “the government faces challenges in restoring health facilities in affected areas and urgent repairs to restore functionality have been identified,” he said.

In Sud Department, the UN said 28 percent of health facilities sustained severe damage and eight percent are closed; while, in Grand’Anse, 43 per cent of health facilities were severely damaged, and seven per cent are closed.

Of the 74 cholera and acute diarrhea treatment facilities in Haiti, the UN said 34 are fully functional, while 40 sustained various levels of damage.

Restoring health services to a functional level requires not only fixing structures, but providing electricity and water and sanitation, as well as helping many health workers who themselves have been severely affected by the hurricane’s destruction, according to Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health.

“The major needs are to renovate existing health structures with durable repairs, to increase humanitarian assistance to rural areas, and to improve water quality and sanitation,” Poncelet said.

The latest figures from the Haitian government show that 175,509 Haitians are still living in shelters, while more than 1.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

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