Ramp up response in Caribbean in wake of Hurricane Matthew

After deploying field teams to Caribbean countries affected by Hurricane Matthew, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) have headed to Haiti, where they are preparing for a major upsurge in cholera.

According to PAHO’s Health Emergencies Department, of Haiti’s 15 main hospitals, only nine are currently operating, and one, Les Cayes Hospital in Sud Department, has been evacuated to a functioning facility. Only five of the hospitals are reachable by phone, the United Nations said.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the death toll has risen to at least 23, with more than 10,000 people remaining in shelters.

PAHO also noted that bridge collapses have made access to three departments difficult.

PAHO said it has deployed 11 Regional Response Team experts to support technical activities in four affected countries: Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas.

The response teams are coordinating their activities with national officials in the respective countries.

In the wake of massive flooding and damage to water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, PAHO said Hurricane Matthew is expected to cause a surge of cholera – including through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017.

PAHO said it has already seen 28,500 cases of cholera in Haiti so far this year, and it is working closely with the Ministry of Health to identify areas of high risk.

Since October 2010, Haiti has reported more than 790,000 cases of cholera and more than 9,300 deaths, according to PAHO.

This year, PAHO said cholera red alerts have been activated by Haiti’s Ministry of Health for 12 municipalities in four departments for multiple localized outbreaks.

Starting this week, PAHO said it is deploying field epidemiologists with cholera experience to track and control the outbreaks.

The next step will be to strengthen the cholera alert and response networks that were active since 2010 until recently, with epidemiologists and field coordinators in priority areas integrated into PAHO response teams.

As for other island nations in the region, the United Nations noted that Jamaica has opened 112 shelters to almost 1,400 people, Cuba evacuated 900,000 people, and the Dominican Republic evacuated over 14,600 due to the storm damage.

In the Bahamas, PAHO said it deployed three experts in water and sanitation and health coordination, and is completing a readiness assessment of clinics.

PAHO also said experts were identified to support the Turks and Caicos for post-hurricane rapid assessment.

Response teams have been placed on alert in other countries, such as Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, which are assessing damages from the storm, PAHO said.

The UN said PAHO is coordinating with partners, such as the Red Cross, the World Food Program (WFP), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, among others.

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