Port-au-Prince – Hurricane Matthew has had a devastating effect on the Grand Sud region of Haiti, where UN Environment has been working for the past six years.
The region remains cut off from the rest of the country a week after the category 4 hurricane hit. With numerous bridge collapses, road access is highly challenging and telecommunications systems are not functioning in several areas. The disaster has caused loss of human lives, damaged infrastructure, caused total or partial loss of harvests, uprooted trees and the destroyed a large number of houses due to the effects of the waves and/or high winds.
Latest figures from the Government of Haiti, cited by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), estimate that 1,410,907 people are currently in need of assistance.
In the days leading up to the hurricane, UN Environment assisted the Government of Haiti in the South, notably in the evacuation of people living in vulnerable zones near to the coast or small islands along the southern coast. UN Environment played a key role in arguing for the evacuation of people from these small islands, and also supported the Civilian Protection Agency in the immediate relocation of the most exposed families.
In the Sud Department, one of the zones most affected by the hurricane, UN Environment directly helped the evacuation of fishing communities and their fishing materials. Prior to the hurricane, UN Environment had worked with fishermen on an emergency preparation protocol for disasters, during which the fishermen learnt how to act in the face of natural disasters. As hurricane Matthew approached, these fishermen helped each other to move their boats and equipment to shelter, in accordance with the protocol. Fishing is an important revenue-generating activity in much of the Grand Sud area. It remains to be seen however, how much of this equipment survived the hurricane.
At present, according to the latest information, thousands of people are without shelter throughout the region affected by the hurricane, with very little food or water. The Haitian government, as well as humanitarian actors on the ground, are increasingly concerned about the effects of cholera and other diseases linked to poor sanitary conditions. Assessments of the damage are not yet complete, but initial estimates indicate it is considerable.
At the request of the UN Resident Coordinator in Haiti, UN Environment has joined the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) team in order to guide the multi-sectoral rapid assessments on the ground thanks to its intimate knowledge of the region. As part of this team, UN Environment will help the coordination of different rapid assessments taking place in the region by sharing information with different partners, including UNDAC, Red Cross, Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), National Centre for Geospatial information (CNIGS), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR), as well as local partners.
A UN Flash Appeal for the next three months is taking place today, Monday 10 October in Geneva to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of those seriously affected. As over the past several years and in the context of this latest disaster, UN Environment continues to support the Government and people of Haiti.
For more information, please contact:
Sophie Brown, UNEP Communications Advisor, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, sophie.brown[at]unep.org, +41 22 917 88 39