The island nation of Haiti has been hit by yet another natural disaster, this time Hurricane Matthew, which at press time has claimed 877 lives, according to The Independent. The death toll is unfortunately expected to rise as numbers from rural and mountainous areas continue to come in and waters recede. Most of the damage is in the southwestern part of the country.
The Associated Press reports that most deaths have come from falling debris from the winds that tore through the area at 145 mph on Tuesday. Haiti’s government has estimated that at least 350,000 people need some kind of assistance, including shelter, clean water, food and toiletries.
The Independent is reporting that at least 61,000 people were placed in emergency shelters, cellphone networks were down, and roads were flooded by sea and river water.
And in addition to all of that, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere ($1,700 per capita income) is ill-equipped to deal with Matthew’s aftereffects.
According to humanitarian organization UNICEF, up to 80 percent of homes in the south of the country have been damaged—this on top of the 55,000 already homeless from the massive 2010 earthquake.
“This is the worst storm Haiti has seen in decades,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF representative in Haiti. “Water-borne diseases are the first threat to children in similar situations—our first priority is to make sure children have enough safe water.”
UNICEF reports that any damage to water and sanitation infrastructure or large-scale displacement could put children and families at greater risk of infection for cholera, which is now endemic in the country.
After the 2010 earthquake, more than 7,000 Haitians died from cholera.
In the U.S., the hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm but is still extremely dangerous to the the Georgia and Carolina coasts and is expected to cause widespread flooding.