'People will die soon if we don't get some aid'

A child carries a container of water as he walks past homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti. Photo / AP
A child carries a container of water as he walks past homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti. Photo / AP

At a cramped police station serving as a makeshift clinic, Darline Derosier fastened IV drips to jail cell bars, wiped the brows of cholera patients and tended to the wounds of those injured when Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern peninsula.

She was the only health worker helping about 40 patients inside the station bereft of police as she waited for help to arrive in the hard-hit town of Marfranc nearly a week after the Category 4 storm struck Oct. 4.

Among the patients was an elderly woman lying unconscious on a cell floor with a leg bandaged in an old rag and a man with gashes around his neck, his eyes fluttering.

"People will die soon if we don't get some aid," an overwhelmed Derosier said.

The town is a 45-minute drive southwest from the coastal city of Jeremie, where food, medicine and fresh water are finally arriving but still slow to reach increasingly desperate communities.

"We haven't received anything from Jeremie," Derosier said, adding that she has made several calls requesting help and medical supplies.

The UN humanitarian agency in Geneva made an emergency appeal for nearly US$120 million in aid, saying about 750,000 people in southwest Haiti alone will need "life-saving assistance and protection" in the next three months.

UN officials said earlier that at least 1.4 million people across the region need assistance and that 2.1 million overall have been affected by the hurricane. Some 175,000 people remain in shelters.

Electricity was still out, water and food were scarce, and officials said young men in villages along the road between the hard-hit cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie were building blockades of rocks and broken branches to halt relief convoys.

A convoy of food, water and medicine was attacked by gunmen in a remote valley where there had been a mudslide, said Frednel Kedler, coordinator for the Civil Protection Agency in the Grand-Anse Department, which includes Jeremie.

The National Civil Protection headquarters in Port-au-Prince raised the official nationwide death toll to 372, which included at least 198 deaths in Grand-Anse. But local officials have said the toll in Grand-Anse alone tops 500.

The UN also said the hurricane has increased the risk of a "renewed spike" in the number of cholera cases. A cholera outbreak since 2010 has already killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000.

- AP

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