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Haiti flooding: Rain from Hurricane Ike deepens misery left by Hanna, Gustav

  • World Vision providing food, clothing, shelter materials, hygiene kits to affected families
  • Access to flooded areas remains critical challenge, World Vision warns
  • Flooding emergency comes on top of ongoing food crisis caused by higher global prices


Port-au-Prince, Haiti
— As rains from Hurricane Ike continue to drench northern Haiti, international humanitarian agency World Vision continued its relief activities for communities still reeling from the effects of Hurricanes Hanna and Gustav. The agency’s staff also assisted people as they evacuated to higher and safer ground in northern Haiti on Saturday.


“The only good news here is that Hurricane Ike’s path was far enough north that Haiti did not take another direct hit,” said Wesley Charles, World Vision’s national director in Haiti. “But the rains from Ike have made it even more difficult for aid workers to get into some of the worst-flooded areas. People are becoming increasingly desperate.”


Access to many of the hard-hit areas remains a critical challenge, Charles emphasised. In the devastated city of Gonaive, 10,000 people are crammed into 115 shelters. An assessment yesterday found that just 10 of the 115 shelters had food. Flying into the cut off areas is difficult as it’s believed that all but one of the runways in the northwest are flooded. Helicopters are needed but few are available in Haiti.


Despite ongoing access challenges, World Vision managed to provide 10-day food rations to about 450 families on the island of La Gonave, 1,100 hygiene kits to displaced people in the Central Plateau, and clothing and shelter materials to 300 families in Jean Denies—which became cut off from the capital when rains from Hurricane Ike washed out the last remaining bridge into the area.


"In Jean Denise yesterday, I met scores of distraught and burdened families,” said Steve Matthews, World Vision’s emergency communications manager. “With the last bridge now destroyed, the needs in that cut-off region will continue to climb.”


“Dirty water was everywhere as we travelled to Jean Denise,” Matthews continued, “Children played in the filthy water. Women were washing clothes and dishes in overflowing streams. The farmland was absolutely drenched. Everything has become waterlogged, making it nearly impossible to cook, even for those who were able to salvage some of their rice.”


Because cooking is currently a challenge for flood-affected families, plans are underway to provide ready-to-eat food such as high-energy biscuits. In a brief period of no rain on Saturday, people were trying to salvage their wet rice by drying it on tarps laid out on roads and in fields.


World Vision plans to scale up its relief efforts in the week ahead in close coordination with the United Nations and other humanitarian groups in Haiti. The agency plans to distribute 40 metric tons of food in the city of Mirebalais beginning this today, along with 150 hygiene kits and 250 cases of water.


Haiti has been hit hard by a succession of hurricanes and tropical rains over the past two weeks. Tens of thousands have been displaced. Overland access to a large portion of the northwest of Haiti is cut off by washed out bridges and roads, making food scarce. Meanwhile, the beginning of the school year has been delayed for at least a month, creating an additional hardship for children growing up in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.


The storms have also damaged the next mango crop, the only viable export crop from Haiti. The loss of this income will hurt farmers, even as much of the country struggles to feed itself in an ongoing food crisis caused by higher global food prices, among other factors.


Media contact: Dominic McInerney: 03 9287 2257 or 0403 163 125


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