"It literally looks like a warzone" - Appeal for Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

The UN is scrambling to fend off the threat of cholera

"It literally looks like a warzone" - Appeal for Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

Image: Vladjimir Legagneur

One week after Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, United Nations agencies are continuing a massive relief effort - with an appeal for more than €100m.

The storm made landfall in Haiti on October 4th, leaving some 1,000 people dead and at least 1.4 million in need of assistance.

The UN is scrambling to fend off the threat of cholera, delivering life-saving supplies and rehabilitating damaged infrastructure, such as schools.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sent one million cholera vaccine doses to the country.

It will also send cholera expert Dr Dominique Legros to Haiti at the end of the week.

The WHO has deployed some 80 staff from its regional office, and provided materials for cholera care. The agency has also mobilised partners - such as Médecins Sans Frontières - which deployed 40 of its own staff.

Image: Vladjimir Legagneur

"The top priority for people affected by the hurricane is to give them access to safe drinking water", Dr Legros told reporters in Geneva at a regular bi-weekly press briefing.

"It is the only way to control cholera on the long term in Haiti and elsewhere".

In the context of flooding and potential contamination of drinking water, the WHO is concerned about the further increase in cholera cases - particularly at this time of the year, as there is usually an increment in cases reported between November and January.

Image: Vladjimir Legagneur

About one-quarter of the health care facilities, including cholera treatment centres and units, have been either destroyed or seriously damaged in the south of the country.

"It is necessary to plan for the worst case scenario and be ready to face the situation with all the usual elements of a response plan such as surveillance, access to safe water, and vaccines," Dr Legros added.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has reported that in the country's northwest, 60 to 90% of the harvest has been destroyed, and the fishing industry was paralysed because boats and fishing materials had been swept away.

However in the southwest, where Hurricane Matthew made landfall, almost 100% of the crops are gone.

Maarten Boute is chairman of Digicel Haiti and spoke with Newstalk Breakfast.

"It literally looks like a warzone - like an atomic bomb was dropped there.

"And literally all the roofs are off the (houses), the churches have lost their roofs, the schools have lost their roofs - a lot of trees are down...and people have also lost most of their agricultural products.

"There's a short-term need for relief aid, but there's definitely a medium to long-term need to help these people get back on their feet, plant their crops and in the meantime help them out with food aid - because they will not be able to get their crops growing that fast".

Image: Vladjimir Legagneur

"One of the ways of not helping Haiti is by sending food from abroad - if anybody in Ireland was thinking of doing that.

"It's much better to send money to some of the trusted, smaller NGOs that are operating on the ground and help these out - because these will work on getting the livelihood back into these people's hands."

If you want to donate towards the relief effort, please visit the Haven website