Haiti’s Hurricane Victims Facing Homelessness and Food Shortages

October 13, 2008  1:32 PM

CONTACT: Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Haiti’s Hurricane Victims Facing Homelessness and Food Shortages
MSF Denounces Inefficient Emergency Response in Gonaïves

GONAIVES – October 13 – Five weeks after a series of hurricanes struck Haiti, people
in the city of Gonaïves are still deprived of essential services, the international
medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières
(MSF) said today. Since early October, families have been evicted from schools and
churches where they had sought refuge after the storms destroyed their homes.

With no alternative housing available, MSF estimates that approximately 10,000
people-out of a total population of 200,000-are living on roofs, in tents, or in
fragile shacks made of wood debris and bed sheets. Other families are crammed into
abandoned buildings by the dozens, or staying temporarily with relatives in
overcrowded conditions that increase the risk of poor sanitation and domestic
violence. In addition to this, electricity and running water have yet to be

While it has not rained in more than ten days, many roads are still flooded. Mud is
more than three feet deep in some parts of the city, making it extremely difficult
to get around. “It’s as if a cyclone passed through here just a couple of days ago,”
said Vikki Stienen, MSF project coordinator in Gonaïves. “The coordination of relief
efforts is extremely chaotic.”

“Usually after natural disasters MSF can reduce it activities after the first
month,” Stienen said. “Here, it’s the opposite; we’ve had to reinforce our teams and
our intervention.”

So far in Gonaïves, MSF has distributed 3,000 family kits (including plastic
sheeting, soap, and jerry cans) and is distributing 2,000 more beginning today.
Moreover, MSF is planning to distribute another 5,000 kits to cover the needs of as
many people as possible in the city. Additionally, MSF is providing the majority of
clean drinking water distributed in Gonaïves, a total of one million liters per day.

MSF is also witnessing an increase in the number of malnourished children admitted
to its hospital. MSF re-opened the hospital in Gonaïves only 10 days ago and seven
severely malnourished children have already been admitted. This number is expected
to grow as people hear about the re-opening of the hospital. Haitians already face
chronic food crises and nutritional deficits. The recent hurricanes destroyed crops
and killed significant numbers of livestock, making people all the more vulnerable.

International food aid reaching the community is clearly insufficient in quantity,
unsuitable for the nutritional needs of young children, and is being distributed in
a way that excludes single mothers. There is still no clear strategy to identify the
needs, nor implement a proper nutrition response.

Despite the significant presence of international organizations, the people of
Gonaïves have yet to see much benefit. Hurricane season ends in late November. If
another storm were to strike the region with more heavy rains, inhabitants here
would once again pay a heavy price.

MSF urges international organizations and the Haitian government to immediately
re-examine their emergency aid response, and to prioritize housing and nutritional
support for the youngest of the flood victims.


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