Hurricane Matthew: International aid needed in Haiti to prevent more loss of life

Emergencies, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 11 Oct 2016

Food, shelter and clean water are needed urgently by people in southern Haiti following the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew last week.

Oxfam fears that the current death toll of at least 800 will increase further. The international community must act immediately to mitigate the loss of entire harvests and to counter any possible spikes of cholera.

Oxfam teams are responding on the ground in Haiti and the organisation is sending in 3 tons of water-purifying supplies.

Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, Damien Berrendorf, said the organisation’s greatest fear was that the loss of crops and possible spread of cholera and other diseases would cause more deaths than the actual hurricane over the next few days and weeks.

“We are talking about extremely vulnerable people who have lost absolutely everything. They will not recover their livelihoods or reach minimum survival conditions without significantly more support,” he said.

“Many of those people affected are suffering from hunger and do not have any means to buy seeds or tools. Farm animals are also dead.

“In the most devastated areas, more than 80 per cent of the population relied on self-sufficiency farming, so this humanitarian crisis will hit them particularly hard.”

The United Nations has called for a ‘massive response’ to the deadly hurricane that has affected more than 2.1 million people, with 750,000 in urgent need of assistance. Oxfam fears the renewed spread of cholera and other diseases due to lack of hygiene and contaminated water. After an initial assessment, local teams are now distributing hygiene kits, including personal cleaning supplies and water purification tablets. Oxfam is also installing clean water supplies to counter cholera, diarrhoea, and other water-borne diseases.

The huge storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes. Oxfam is handing out temporary roofing for people to repair their houses.

Louis Joelle, who lives outside the southern city of Les Cayes, said Haitians expect there to be diseases due to the lack of water.

“We need drinkable water and food, we don´t have anything, everything is destroyed. We need water, food, seeds, and shelter,” Mr Joelle said.

Oxfam is working in coordination with local authorities, especially at the municipal and Civil Protection levels, and also with local organisations and international agencies like UNICEF to speed up the distribution of humanitarian aid to those most affected.

Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Program Coordinator Richard Simpson said the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew to roads and power lines in some areas was of the same magnitude as that caused by the 2010 earthquake.

“The international community needs to mobilise urgently to assist those in desperate need of help,” Mr Simpson said.

Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency responses can be made online.

For interviews or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0428 367 318 or