It’s still not clear just how bad the damage from Hurricane Matthew may be in Haiti because flooding has cut off the hardest hit part of the country with little communication and even less relief reaching the southwest region of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Officially, seven deaths in Haiti as of Wednesday have been blamed on Matthew. But St. Louisans with a history in Haiti fear not only that number could climb dramatically, but that the flooding will most likely create its own lasting disaster.
It's estimated 55,000 Haitians were still living in shelters from the 2010 earthquake when Matthew hit. And for those who could evacuate many had no place to escape the storm. Matthew is said to be the worst hurricane to hit Haiti in more than 50 years.
Several St. Louis organizations are doing work year-round in Haiti including the Crudem Foundation which runs a hospital started by a St. Louis doctor more than 25 years ago.
Dr. Bill Guyol says the hospital is structurally fine. But they are expecting a flood of refugees from this storm and all kinds of potentially deadly health issues caused by all the rain.
“Haitians hate the ran,” says Guyol. “You’re living in a mud hut so ever time it rains there’s water running through your house.” He says that mess means contamination sense there is no sewer system in Haiti with the storm water contaminating the drinking water. “The cholera’s going to be bad,” says Guyol.
Another organization doing long term work in Haiti is Meds & Food for Kids started by Dr. Patricia Wolff a former Washington University pediatrician.
Wolff worries with Matthew’s damage to crops the already malnourished country could face severe food shortages – compounded by a government incapable of an adequate response.
“Thank goodness there are all the non-profits that are in Haiti that will gather resources,”
Both Guyol and Wolff hope the news coverage of Matthew will remind the world just how much help Haitians still need.
“That would be a blessing if there's a blessing to be had here,” says Guyol.