While the United States continues to reel from Hurricane Matthew, Haiti finds itself at the beginning of a lengthy and costly recovery process after the storm struck the western portion of the country. Wind speeds were approximately 145 miles per hour when Matthew reached the small island nation as a Category 4 storm in the early daylight hours of October 4. Haiti has not experienced a Category 4 hurricane since 1964.
As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s infrastructure deficiencies are a secret to no one; tens of thousands of Haitians’ homes, many of them constructed from cinder blocks with tin or thatch roofs, were destroyed or damaged by wind and storm surge. Many now lack clean water and food, while medical resources are being stretched thin. Some coastal portions of the country have been cut off from communication with the downing of telephone lines and most of the country remains without power.
The official death toll from the Haitian government is approaching 500, but unofficial estimates put that number at over 1,000. The UN said 750,000 people were in need of “life-saving assistance and protection” while 1.4 million Haitians will need some form of assistance after being affected by the storm. And that may just be the beginning. Infrastructure deficiencies in water management have led to still water mixing with raw sewage. Such conditions are ideal for the spread of cholera, which has infected at least 200 people since the storm.
The WHO has already begun shipments of one million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti. The UN, meanwhile, has called for $120 million in aid to handle the current crisis. UN, U.S. military, and non-governmental organization aid convoys have already begun delivering essentials to Haiti, but all has not gone smoothly. Some reports have cited angry residents blockading aid vehicles that have tried to travel past them to other areas. Still, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on October 13 that it would provide $12 million in additional assistance, including food, relief supplies, and chlorine to help provide clean water and combat the spread of cholera. The U.S. military has also begun helicopter flights to deliver aid to hard-to-reach areas.
Agriculture, one of Haiti’s most important economic sectors, was also devastated, with the loss of almost 90 percent of the crops along the country’s southern coast, as well as livestock and fishing equipment. The country’s political sphere has not been immune to the disruption of the storm either; Haiti had been scheduled to hold elections on October 9, but the election has been postponed until an undetermined date.
As devastating as Hurricane Matthew was for Haiti, it is dwarfed by the January 2010 earthquake that killed 300,000, from which Haiti was still recovering when the latest disaster hit. As it did following the earthquake, the United States has temporarily halted deportations of Haitians who entered the country illegally.
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