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Haiti devastation slows aid effort
Jeremie, Haiti (AFP) Oct 11, 2016

'Massive response' needed for hurricane-hit Haiti: UN chief
United Nations, United States (AFP) Oct 10, 2016 - A massive international response is needed to cope with the destruction of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday.

At least 1.4 million people need urgent assistance, more than 300 schools have been damaged while crops and food reserves have been destroyed, he said.

"A massive response is required," Ban told reporters.

The United Nations has launched a $120 million flash appeal to cover the needs in Haiti for the next three months.

"Some towns and villages have been almost wiped off the map," he said.

"These numbers and needs are growing as more affected areas are reached."

Haitian officials said Monday that the death toll from the hurricane had risen to 372, but hundreds more are feared dead as rescue workers reach more areas.

"I call on the international community to show solidarity and generosity -- and to work together effectively in responding to this emergency," Ban said.

Matthew was downgraded Sunday to a post-tropical cyclone.

It crashed ashore on Haiti's southern coast on October 4 as a monster Category 4 storm, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.

UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien said the hurricane had triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.

Matthew hit when Haitians were already struggling with a worsening cholera outbreak, blamed on UN peacekeepers that has already killed 100,000 people.

The United Nations is working on a financial package to compensate the families of cholera victims and help build sound water and sanitation systems on the Caribbean island.

The UN's children's agency said 100,000 children will be missing out on learning after their schools were damaged or converted into emergency shelters.

UNICEF is working to set up temporary classrooms and deliver new school supplies.

The US military and UN agencies ramped up aid deliveries to Haiti's storm-hit south on Monday, but cut roads and communications, and blockades by some starving locals, hampered efforts to reach the needy population.

The anger of many Haitians after seeing no relief a week after Hurricane Matthew hammered the southern Tiburon Peninsula was evident. Many stood by roads pleading for aid.

"I understand of course the frustration," Jean-Luc Poncelet, the country representative for the UN's World Health Organization, said after arriving at the airport outside Jeremie, one of the worst-hit cities in the south.

But, he said, the storm's impact in the south and west of the peninsula had been "really catastrophic" and it was a struggle to reach many communities.

"When you have no means of communication, no radio, no telephone, no roads and even a helicopter can't land -- this is what explains the massive delay," he told AFP.

The UN's World Food Programme confirmed those same difficulties as it stepped up food handouts that started over the weekend.

"There are bridges down, the roads are complicated, there's no communications," said a WFP spokesman, Alexis Masciarelli, also at the airport.

He said the WFP has tapped into food stocks previously set aside for schools to give to hundreds of desperate families.

Masciarelli said 25 more tons had been moved to Jeremie for distribution, and many more were on their way by truck to Les Cayes, the other major city affected on the peninsula.

At least 1.4 million Haitians need urgent assistance, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, Haitian civil defense officials said Monday the death toll from the hurricane stood at 372.

- Tons of supplies -

At Jeremie's airport, US military transport helicopters unloaded boxes of USAID supplies.

An official at the airport who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media said nearly 20 tons of supplies -- tarpaulins, rice, cooking oil and hygiene kits -- were being brought in.

That added to 47 tons already brought in by US military helicopters from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince over the preceding two days.

But getting that and other aid to Haitians reduced to drinking unclean water and living in roofless houses will be challenging.

On a main road crossing the mountainous center of the peninsula, residents of some smashed villages used stacked-up trees, rocks and other storm debris to stop aid convoys from passing through without delivering any supplies.

"Indeed, there are blockades on the road and we've been able to discuss with the local community" to be allowed through, Poncelet said.

- 'Anxious' population -

A priority was to verify reported cases of cholera.

The potentially fatal waterborne disease has killed 10,000 people in Haiti since 2010, when it was inadvertently introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers whose camp latrine emptied into a major river.

While some towns and villages reported an apparent spike in infections since the storm, Poncelet said "the number of cases of cholera that we have confirmed are low."

He declined to give a number, but said there were "tens" of cases in one area of the peninsula.

Still, he said WHO had to "be careful" about cholera -- and other diseases that cause diarrhea that could lead to dangerous fluid loss.

Though evaluation teams were still working to get a precise picture of the health situation, medical supplies were being brought in for quicker distribution, he said.

"The population is very anxious," Poncelet said. "They haven't had any systematic support over the last days," he said.

"It is indeed a very, very long time."

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