U.S. announces $12 million in aid for Haiti storm recovery

With food crops destroyed, water supplies contaminated, and farmers and fishermen unable to recover their livelihoods after Hurricane Matthew, Haiti will receive an extra dose of help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which on Thursday announced $12 million in additional humanitarian aid for the hardest hit areas in the country’s southwestern peninsula.

Most of the new assistance — which brings total U.S. aid for immediate Hurricane Matthew relief efforts in the Caribbean to about $14 million — will be used to provide enough food and vouchers to feed 750,000 people in Haiti for three months, said R. David Harden, an assistant administrator for U.S. AID.

The rest of the aid announced Thursday will be used to provide relief supplies, including blankets, hygiene kits, water containers, generators and chain saws, as well as chlorine to treat contaminated water and logistics to ensure air, sea and land distribution to the hardest hit areas.

“It’s a tough situation down there,” Harden said.

U.S. AID deployed a team of 60 people to Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas as part of its Disaster Assistance Response Team, and their daily assessments emphasize an immediate need for clean water, food and shelter, he said.

On Wednesday, U.S. military helicopters, in partnership with United Nations and Haitian officials, conducted 13 flights to communities in Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, including Jérémie, Dame-Marie, Les Cayes and Les Anglais.

“We’re also beginning to open up the roads that are not destroyed,” Harden said.

Improving access to clean water is top priority, Harden said, noting that U.S. AID airlifted enough purification tablets to provide safe drinking water for 475,000 people.

In addition, he said, “We are procuring 38 metric tons of chlorine where we will work with the local water authorities to chlorinate the piped water systems.”

Because the water-borne illness cholera has been spreading, U.S. military and World Health Organization teams are working to get 70 cholera beds into Haiti from the nearby USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport docking ship.

Harden said officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also working alongside Haitian officials to test water quality and to strengthen local capacity to monitor and treat water-borne illnesses.

According to the U.N., an estimated 1.4 million Haitians are in need of humanitarian assistance after the Category 4 storm battered the country on Oct. 4. About 175,000 people in Haiti are living in shelters, said Mourad Wahba, deputy special representative for the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, during a video conference from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

While Haiti is still counting the dead and assessing damage in the storm’s aftermath, international teams on the ground have focused on clearing roads to move humanitarian aid.

Wahba said there is now access from Port-au-Prince, where most of the international aid arrives through the airport, to areas in the southwestern peninsula. But crews are still working to clear secondary roads leading to areas of urgent need.

U.N. peacekeepers also have been providing security for trucks delivering relief supplies, including a water purification system donated by France.

Wahba said that at last count, at least 473 deaths have been attributed to the storm. “But the central emergency authorities are working to identify every death,” he said. “I believe this will rise, but I believe it will be in the hundreds, not the thousands.”