PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK – NEWS – An estimated 500,000 children live in the Grande Anse and Grand South departments in southern Haiti, the areas worst hit by Hurricane Matthew, UNICEF said today. Three days after the storm, it remains unclear how many of them need urgent assistance as damage to road infrastructure continues to hamper assessment and relief efforts.
“We’re still far from having a full picture of the extent of the damage,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “We are hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst.”
Up to 80 per cent of homes in the south are reportedly damaged and nearly 16,000 people are staying in temporary shelters. Some 175 schools are believed to have sustained heavy damage and at least 150 schools throughout the country are being used to shelter evacuees.
A UNICEF team which reached Les Cayes, one of the worst affected areas in Grand South, reported massive flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, and damage to the town’s hospital and other health centres. Families are struggling to find safe water and adequate latrines.
UNICEF had prepositioned emergency supplies with national authorities to reach up to 10,000 people. Additional water and sanitation supplies, such as water purification tablets, water bladders and plastic sheeting, have been dispatched to the most affected departments in the westernmost tip of Haiti. Humanitarian needs assessments are under way and additional relief supplies will certainly be needed as the full impact of the hurricane becomes clearer.
UNICEF also said today that it would need at least $5 million to meet children’s most pressing needs including:
- Providing safe water and adequate sanitation to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases;
- Restoring health services to help prevent and treat malnutrition among young children and provide essential vitamins and anti-diarrhoea treatment;
- Setting up temporary learning spaces so that children can resume their learning; and
- Supporting child protection services to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse.
“The more information we can gather on the ground, the better we can support the government’s efforts to help children and their families cope with the scale of destruction,” Vincent said.
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