Teams from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are assessing the needs in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas hit by Hurricane Tomas and preparing to rush assistance to the affected areas.
Heavy rain from the hurricane caused flooding in the country’s five southern departments and in other regions including Artibonite, Centre, North West, and the communities of Léogane and Gressier, west of Port-au-Prince.
Heavy rains and severe flooding have also occurred in upper Artibonite with as much as one metre of standing water reported in Gonaïves, north of the Artibonite River.
UNICEF is working with the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and other UN agencies and partners on the ground to respond to the most urgent needs.
“Our immediate goal is to assess the impacts of the storm and prioritize our response and coordination efforts to ensure access to adequate sanitation, safe water, and basic health care,” said Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.
“It is also imperative in responding to emergencies such as this that separated and unaccompanied children, who are most at risk during emergencies, are protected and reunited with their families,” added Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans, who assessed the hurricane-stricken area of Jérémie at the south western tip of Haiti.
UNICEF will be working to ensure the safe evacuation and relocation of children from flooded areas, safeguarding schools and school supplies, protecting children in camps for those displaced from January’s earthquake and orphanages.
It will also ensure the continued operation of Cholera Treatment Centres, which are part of measures to prevent further spread of cholera, which has affected Artibonite and communities in the north-west region the most.
According to UNICEF, the recent flooding and physical damage caused by the hurricane will further complicate the challenge of responding to the cholera epidemic that emerged just three weeks ago.
“Extensive flooding and the deterioration of clean water and sanitation supplies and circumstances can create the ideal conditions for spreading the cholera disease further, a risk that UNICEF and partners are addressing in their response plans,” stated the agency.
The latest figures from the Haitian Ministry of Health put the reported cholera death toll at 501, with 7,359 hospitalizations throughout the small Caribbean nation.
Later this week UNICEF is expecting a large shipment of supplies, including 1.2 million sachets of oral rehydration salts, more than 8 million water purification tablets, and more than 5,000 tarpaulins for distribution in the most affected areas.