While the world media is focusing on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the United States, the UN is calling attention to the fact that over 1 million people in Haiti are facing food insecurity after the storm hit Latin America’s poorest country. The situation is exacerbated by the nation’s long drought and Hurricane Isaac in August.
“Now, with this new tropical storm, we fear that a great deal of the harvest which was ongoing in the south of the country may have been destroyed completely,” warned Johan Peleman, the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) operation in Haiti,
According to the UN, in Haiti between 15,000 and 20,000 homes were destroyed, damaged or flooded by the storm, though it is still soon for an overall damage estimate.
Hurricane Sandy also killed 54 people.
“Already, the drought and the previous storm had hit the northern part of the country very badly, and we had seen the levels of food insecurity rise there — with the south being hit now, we are going to face in the next couple of months very serious problems of malnutrition and food insecurity”, Peleman said, who also noted that 350,000 people in Haiti are still living in temporary camps as a result of the January 2010 earthquake that left tens of thousands dead.
“The most vulnerable IDP’s (internally displaced persons) that were living in camps have been evacuated before the storm and we are now, with the humanitarian community and the UN family, repairing tents, handing out new tarpaulins so that they can go back to live in more favourable conditions because a lot of light structures were obviously completely destroyed by the storm,” Peleman said.
The number of cholera cases in Haiti is also expected to surge: “The country is relatively well-prepared, but it is also very vulnerable to this type of disaster, not just because of the poverty, but because of decades of deforestation and erosion,” Peleman said.