One year after Hurricane Matthew, Haiti continues to be affected by a convergence of humanitarian needs. Two major hurricanes - Irma and Maria (categories 5 and 4 respectively) - passed north of Haiti on 7 and 22 September. The most exposed departments in Haiti were the Nord, NordEst and Nord-Ouest, which experienced heavy rains and flooding. UNICEF and its partners continue to respond to humanitarian needs across Haiti, including in hurricane-affected areas. Achievements include:
• In 2017, with 10,527 suspected cholera cases reported as of 23 September - compared to over 29,231 cases in the same period in 2016 - cholera is at a reduced low level, despite an ongoing outbreak in remote Artibonite department. As Haiti has entered the high transmission season (August-Nov), efforts and extreme vigilance must be maintained to avoid spreading to high density urban areas.
• UNICEF enabled access to safe water to more than 640,000 people since the passage of Hurricane Matthew, through the rehabilitation/repair and operationalization of water systems, as well as the establishment of 24 mobile water treatment units.
• 120 schools damaged by Hurricane Matthew have been rehabilitated, which facilitated the return to class for over 30,000 students. More than 10,000 items of school furniture were provided in 139 schools, and 27,000 children received psychosocial support.
• In 2017, a total of 10,628 children under five with severe acute malnutrition and 7,381 children with moderate acute malnutrition were treated. More than 32,000 children 6-24 months of age, and 22,725 pregnant and lactating women received micronutrients.
• UNICEF supported mobile medical units with integrated GBV, reproductive health, and nutrition programming in the hurricane response, providing health services to 157,588 individuals, with a focus on pregnant women and children in Grand’Anse and Sud departments. UNICEF supported the repair or replacement with solar refrigerators of all 27 refrigerators that had been damaged in hurricane-affected health facilities to ensure the cold-chain.
• More than 4,300 unaccompanied and separated children were assisted with interim care and family reunification support, and more than 28,000 children benefitted from psychosocial assistance and nutrition, health, and hygiene education.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The early rainy season (beginning in April), developed into a high-risk hurricane season (Aug-Nov), creating adverse conditions in Haiti in 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded up to 17 storms, and so far this year, four of these became major hurricanes - categories 3, 4, 5: Harvey, Irma, Lee and Maria – two of which affected the north of Haiti, although less than originally expected.
Hurricane Irma, a powerful category 5 hurricane packing winds with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph or 280 km/h, passed over northern Haiti on 7 September, after devastating several eastern Caribbean islands. The most exposed areas were the three northern departments of Nord-Ouest, Nord, and Nord-East, and to a certain extent Center and Artibonite, which are prone to flooding. The inter-ministerial evaluation reported one death, one person missing, and 17 injured. An estimated 10,000 people evacuated to temporary shelters, 5,000 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged, three schools were destroyed in Nord-Ouest department and 21 schools were severely damaged. Roads have been damaged and crops were affected, raising concerns for the next harvest.
Two weeks after Irma, on 21-22 September, category 4 Hurricane Irma followed a similar trajectory as Maria and passed 240 km from northeast Haiti. The three northern departments of Nord-Ouest, Nord, and Nord-East were again most exposed. While Maria’s impact was limited, government sources reported four deaths and flooding of more than 2,000 houses. Crops were damaged in all three departments.
Despite those adverse conditions, there has been no significant increase in the suspected cases of cholera in the affected areas. The disease has remained controlled at around 250 suspected cases per week, largely due to effective coordination and increased number of rapid-response teams. An outbreak is ongoing in remote Artibonite department, and is receiving special attention to prevent spreading to other parts of the country.
A year after Hurricane Matthew, the operational environment in which UNICEF response took place, has changed and been influenced by several factors, including a new government installed following elections at the Presidential, Legislative and Municipal levels. The transition period has seen some turbulence, including protests related to the arrest of Senator-elect Guy Philippe in Grand’Anse, and continued protests over the publication of the National budget and increase in taxes. The UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is transitioning into a smaller follow-up mission and will be replaced on 15 October by the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUSJUSTH).