Haitian Red Cross staff Chantal Pitaud and Mexican Red Cross delegate Raziel Urunga cleaning eight-y
Haitian Red Cross staff Chantal Pitaud and Mexican Red Cross delegate Raziel Urunga cleaning eight-year-old Misslove’s wounds that she received from being picked up and thrown in the air by the wind during hurricane Mathew. /Nicole Robicheau, IFRC.
IFRC’s Colin Chaperon and Raziel Uranga getting ready to provide first aid
IFRC’s Colin Chaperon and Raziel Uranga getting ready to provide first aid to people with injuries sustained during Hurricane Matthew. /Nicole Robicheau, IFRC
Loriez Batiste fell on her face during Hurricane Matthew
Loriez Batiste fell on her face during Hurricane Matthew and has had a headache ever since. /Nicole Robicheau, IFRC.
Haitian Red Cross volunteers distribute 69 cholera kits
Haitian Red Cross volunteers distribute 69 cholera kits at the Port-à-Piment hospital for suspected cholera patients. /IFRC
Cholera treatment centre behind the health dispensary in Roche-à-Bateaux was destroyed
Cholera treatment centre behind the health dispensary in Roche-à-Bateaux, Haiti, was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. /Nicole Robicheau, IFRC

Nicole Robicheau is a Canadian aid worker currently deployed in Haiti with the IFRC in response to Hurricane Matthew

A convoy of five Red Cross cars makes its way from the town of Les Cayes in the southern part of the southwest of Haiti up to the northern coast to the town of Jérémie. Somewhere in the middle of the journey in Plaine Martin, the team stops to get information on reconstruction materials. A crowd of people gathers around the car.

Jolanne Destinée shows her eight-year-old daughter’s injuries to Haitian Red Cross staff Chantal Pitaud. She has open wounds on her head, elbow, and leg.

“The wind was so strong, it picked her up and threw her,” says Destinée.

More than a week after the hurricane, her wounds are starting to get infected.

“It costs money to take her to the hospital and I have no money for this,” says Destinée. 

She and her ten children are staying in a church that’s been turned into an evacuation centre since their house was destroyed. Red Cross volunteers clean her wounds with antiseptic cream. Once they’re done, Loriez Batiste shows them the wound on her face. 

“My head has been hurting because I fell on my face during the hurricane,” says Batiste. 

The team cleans her wounds and gives her pain medication before continuing the journey. 

Fear of cholera spreading

Infections from injuries sustained in the hurricane aren’t the only health concern Haiti is facing. Cholera cases are on the rise, although there is currently no testing being done to confirm cases, making this challenging to quantify.

At the Port Salut hospital in the south department, the director of the local hospital Desrabires Stevenson says there are currently 14 suspected cholera cases at the hospital. Prior to the hurricane, they hadn’t seen any cases in the previous four to six months. 

“We are missing the supplies we need to treat patients, we have no chlorine right now to disinfect,” says Stevenson.

Most health centres and hospitals in the area had small cholera treatment centres set up in the back capable of treating cases should they arise. As the structures weren’t as solid as hospital structures, most of these have been destroyed. This is the case at the health dispensary in Roche-a-Bateaux. All that remains is the roof that’s flat on the ground, and a separate smaller building housing the toilet. 

At the Port-à-Piment hospital further west along the coast, Haitian Red Cross volunteers distribute 69 cholera kits to be given to suspected cholera patients as they’re discharged from the hospital. These kits have everything people need to disinfect their homes and have safe water to drink, such as water purification tablets and soap. Red Cross volunteers have also decontaminated the local hospital in the town of Jérémie, spraying a mixture of chlorine and water solution.

“This is an important part of the Red Cross strategy to reduce the risk of cholera transmission,” says Laura Archer, who is one of the two health focal points on the IFRC field assessment and coordination team in Haiti working on Hurricane Matthew response. 

The Red Cross is working hard to ensure that health needs of those affected by Hurricane Matthew are met. Hygiene promotion experts are being brought in to the country as well as systems to purify water. Red Cross volunteers will be out in communities spreading messages on how to stay safe.

The Canadian Red Cross, jointly with the French Red Cross, has deployed its Emergency Health Clinic to provide a variety of health services, including treating common infections such as cholera and malaria.

Canadians can donate to support the ongoing response to Hurricane Matthew