Friday, September 19, 2008

Haitians At Risk Of Disease After Hurricanes, Say Aid Agencies

Thousands of people remain in squalid, cramped shelters without sanitation after being hit by three hurricanes

Residents from the city of Gonaives, Haiti, try to cross a flooded street after tropical storm 'Hanna' passed over the island earlier this week. Photograph: Rood Chery/EPA

Aid agencies today warned of severe outbreaks of disease in Haiti as thousands of people remained in squalid, cramped shelters after the country was hit by three hurricanes and a tropical storm.

Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, is struggling to cope with the disaster and some areas are still without any clean water supplies.

Aid workers in Gonaives, one of the hardest hit towns, have struggled to reach thousands of people who fled to higher ground.

The storms brought down bridges, cutting off all roads leading in to the town making the only access by helicopter and boat.
Charlie Rowley, of Oxfam, said victims were having to endure appalling conditions.

"The situation is really dire, especially in the shelters where ... hundreds of people [are] in a very small area without any sanitation facilities," he said.

"It's very dirty and the [aid] organisations are doing their best to build as quickly as possible the sanitation conditions to be able to avoid a public health crisis."

Many of those who fled to the roofs of their houses to escape rising floodwaters remain there, surviving by collecting rainwater in buckets and saucepans.

Others are using whatever water they can find to live on, sparking fears of disease.

"After this storm, there's nothing," Jean François Adolphe, the assistant mayor of Gonaives, said.

He joined more than 100 Haitian leaders in Miami earlier this week, attempting to get help for the country.

"Everything is under dirt," he said. "The people had stores, the people that did commerce, they all have to start at zero now, and they're in great despair. They've almost given up hope."

Haiti had already seen rioting over rising food and commodity prices before the storms struck.

Heavy rains, winds and mudslides have devastated Haiti's crops, worsening its already dire food situation. UN peacekeeping troops have been deployed to keep order at deliveries of food aid.

Thomas Joseph Wills, the mayor of Cabaret, another badly affected town, said people needed "every kind of help imaginable — clothes, shelter, food, shoes".

"We need technicians, engineers," he said. "Everybody is saying the same thing. Not necessarily money, but just help us put together a system, an infrastructure, of support, so we can do this ourselves."

Source: Guardian.Co.Uk

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