Assessing the Beginnings of Haiti’s Latest Unnatural Disaster

November 01, 2012

Relief organizations and the Haitian government are still attempting to assess the extent of the damage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. The Haitian government belatedly declared a month-long state of emergency yesterday. The official death toll has been raised to 54, with 21 people still unaccounted for, as the AP reported today.

As with other recent storms to hit Haiti, Sandy’s arrival in Haiti might well have been just the start of the latest disaster. Heavy rains – let alone storms – always bring an increase in cholera infections. But as the Boston Globe reports:

…money for cholera prevention is running low.

Funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to expire in February and will not be renewed, said Cate Oswald, [Partners in Health’s] director of programs in Haiti.

The impact of the storm on Haiti’s crops is also only now being assessed, and the news is worse than many had thought it would be: “More than 70% of crops – including bananas, plantains and maize – were destroyed in the south of the country, officials said,” as the BBC reported. As we noted earlier, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned Reuters that “Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy,” “so food security will be an issue.”

The New York Times, Miami Herald and The Guardian have all cited the Haitian government in reporting that 200,000 people had been left homeless – or at least had their homes damaged – by the storm. Newly homeless means more people thrown into a state of vulnerability: vulnerable to cholera and other illness and disease, vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence, vulnerable to hunger, and vulnerable to forced eviction when/if these people move into displaced persons settlements.

Organizations with proven track records of doing important work in Haiti have mobilized and are raising funds to provide relief, respond to the increased risk of new cholera infections, and other lingering impacts of the latest unnatural disaster to hit Haiti. These include Partners in Health; Doctors Without Borders; the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which advocates on behalf of IDPs and victims of rape and gender-based violence; and the Under Tents campaign which fights for the right to housing in Haiti.

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