With travel by road restricted by damage from Hurricane Matthew, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team arrived by helicopter in Les Cayes, a city in the area of southwestern Haiti that bore the brunt of the storm. The Category 4 storm made direct landfall with sustained winds of 145 mph on October 4, causing widespread destruction that has left some of the hardest hit communities unreachable.
“Heavy rainfall and flooding create fertile ground for disease outbreaks like cholera, which our teams have been treating in Haiti since 2010,” says Sean Casey, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team Leader in Haiti. “Ensuring people have access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene supplies will be essential in preventing the spread of illness. We will also be looking to support local health facilities and other immediate needs of affected communities.”
While the full scale of the damage in Haiti is still unclear, the UN estimates 350,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance following the storm, while a reported 21,000 people are staying in shelters and preliminary assessments found some 28,000 houses were damaged. Additional emergency response experts, including a water, sanitation, and hygiene specialist, are en route to Haiti to join International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team in Les Cayes.
Hurricane Matthew is now battering the Bahamas. Made up of 700 islands, the country is particularly vulnerable to tropical storms, as much of the country is low-lying and coastal. Heavy rains, in some areas as much as 15 inches, and coastal surges are major concerns. International Medical Corps also has an emergency response team pre-positioned in Nassau so that they can travel to the hardest hit areas immediately after the storm to determine the greatest needs and provide assistance.
International Medical Corps currently provides ongoing humanitarian assistance to those in need in northern and western Haiti. The organization responded to the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 and later that year to Hurricane Tomas and an outbreak of cholera.
A preeminent first responder for more than three decades, International Medical Corps has extensive experience providing medical care and other lifesaving relief in the aftermath of disasters, including Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.