Hurricane Matthew sparks horrific cholera outbreak in Haiti, situation worsening

MOSCOW — The UN is ringing the alarm over a possible cholera outbreak in Haiti, as the number of disease cases is on the rise in the troubled Caribbean nation after disastrous hurricane Matthew swept through the country killing roughly 900 people.

On Saturday, Haitian authorities reported that cholera killed 13 people in the southwest of the nation that had suffered the worst blow from the catastrophic Category 4 hurricane.

Six casualties were reported in Randel, an isolated town set in the mountains in the heart of the Tiburon peninsula and seven others were said to have died in Anse-d’Ainault, a town located on the country’s western coast.

Cholera is an infectious disease that spreads through water supplies and causes diarrhea in patients, leading to severe dehydration and subsequent death of patients. In some cases, the infection kills a patient within a few hours.

The vicious disease was believed to have been carried inadvertently to the Caribbean nation by UN peacekeepers in the aftermath of the major earthquake that left the country in ruins in 2010. Since then, hundreds of thousands people suffered from the disease with over 9,000 of them eventually dying.

In 2016, some 240 have died of Cholera, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund stated on Friday.

Now, the major concern for Haitian authorities is that poor sanitary conditions in the country, which have been deteriorated by complete destruction of critical infrastructure such as water supplies, would cause the rapid spread of the disease.

“People have started dying,” Eli Pierre Celestin of the state health ministry said, noting that rescue operations are hampered by the remoteness of the affected regions and the lack of personnel needed to address the possible outbreak.

A total of 62 people were diagnosed with cholera in the aftermath of the hurricane, according to official data. Celestin said that outbreaks have been registered in Port-a-Piment and Les Anglais in the southwestern tip of the peninsula.

“Hurricane Matthew is feared to significantly worsen the situation and increase the risk of a larger outbreak,” UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said in a statement.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said that a surge in disease cases will continue into 2017.

Meanwhile, people in the affected areas lack food and medical assistance. French humanitarian organization CARE estimated that up to a million people are in dire need of urgent assistance.

Still the international community has failed to keep up with providing people with basic supplies, locals say.

“The government is not giving us anything,” Donny St Germain, a pastor at El Shaddai Ministries International, told Al Jazeera. “The international community continues to do inspections while people are dying of hunger — and so right now, we need supplies.”

Matthew, classified as a Category 4 hurricane at the time of landfall, ripped through Haiti on Tuesday, killing some 877 people. The death toll is increasing, as scores of people have been reported missing.

After leaving Haiti, Matthew moved to the US’ eastern coast, raking coastal Florida and Georgia before making landfall in South Carolina on Saturday morning. PNA/