Haiti: health and food crisis threatens after Sandy

Issue 

“As if the mud, misery, loss of life and homelessness in Hurricane Sandy’s wake weren’t bad enough, the worst may yet be to come for disaster-ravaged Haiti,” Caribbean360.org said on October 31.

The article said: “Massive crop damage throughout the southern third of the country, as well as the likelihood of a spike in cases of cholera and other water-borne diseases, could mean that the impoverished country will experience the deadliest effects of the storm’s havoc in the days and weeks ahead.

“Sandy claimed the most lives in the Caribbean in Haiti, as swollen rivers and landslides resulted in a death toll of at least 52 persons, according to the country's Civil Protection office.

“The widespread loss of crops and supplies in the south, both for commercial growers and subsistence farmers, is a source of grave concern.”

The Miami Herald reported on November 5: “Before Sandy dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Haiti, rural towns like Petit-Goave were relatively prosperous, their crops of banana, pigeon peas and yam helping feed the island-nation’s southern peninsula.

“The hillside farms and plantations were among those that had been mercifully spared from previous disasters and disease in a country struggling under the weight of a severe food crisis ...

“'Whatever was left of a potential harvest is gone,' said Johan Peleman, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs here. 'Even the banana harvests seem to be gone.'”

Caribbean360.org said that Haiti had been rocked by nationwide strikes and protests over the rising cost of living before the hurricane. The agriculture ministry's director for the southern department, Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques, expressed concerns the huge crop loss “could aggravate the situation”.

“The storm took everything away,” he said. “Everything the peasants had in reserve — corn, tubers ― all of it was devastated.”

On Haiti's south-western tip, the article said, the Abricots community was still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Tomas and a recent dry spell when Sandy struck.

“We'll have famine in the coming days,” said Abricots Mayor Kechner Toussaint.

Caribbean360.org noted: “Adding to the despair, a sharp rise in suspected cholera cases has been reported by aid organisations in several departments … Cholera has sickened almost 600,000 people and killed more than 7400 since October 2010 in Haiti.”

[To help Haitians, you can donate to Partners in Health, a grassroots health organisation working with the poor in the Caribbean nation.]

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