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Hurricane Matthew death toll nears 900 in Haiti, cholera takes lives
by Makini Brice and Joseph Guyler Delva

Hurricane Matthew's trail of destruction in Haiti stunned those emerging from the aftermath on Friday, with the number of dead soaring to 877, tens of thousands left homeless and outbreaks of cholera already claiming more lives.

Information trickled in from remote areas that were cut off by the storm and it became clear that at least 175 people died in villages clustered among the hills and on the coast of Haiti's fertile western tip.

Rural clinics overflowed with patients whose wounds including broken bones had not been treated since the storm hit on Tuesday. Food was scarce and at least seven people died of cholera, likely because of flood water mixing with sewage.

The storm razed homes to their foundations. The corrugated metal roofs of those still standing were ripped off, the contents visible from above as if peering into doll's houses.

At least three towns reported dozens of fatalities, including the hilly farming village of Chantal, whose mayor said 86 people were killed, mostly when trees crushed houses. He said 20 more people were missing.

"A tree fell on the house and flattened it, the entire house fell on us. I couldn’t get out," said driver Jean-Pierre Jean-Donald, 27, who had been married for a year.

"People came to lift the rubble, and then we saw my wife who had died in the same spot," said Jean-Donald, his young daughter by his side, crying "Mommy."

The death toll continued to rise on Friday in southwest Haiti. Dozens more were missing, many of them in the Grand'Anse region on the northern side of the peninsula.

"We flew over parts of the Grand'Anse region. It's a humanitarian catastrophe," said Frenel Kedner, a government official in the town of Jeremie in southwest Haiti. "The people urgently need food, water, medicine."


In the town of Anse-d'Hainault, seven people died of cholera, a disease that did not exist in Haiti until U.N. peace keepers introduced it after a 2010 earthquake that killed some 200,000 people.

Another 17 cholera cases were reported in Chardonnieres on the south coast.

"Due to massive flooding and its impact on water and sanitation infrastructure, cholera cases are expected to surge after Hurricane Matthew and through the normal rainy season until the start of 2017," the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a statement.

With fatalities mounting, various government agencies and committees differed on total deaths. A Reuters count of deaths reported by civil protection and local officials put the toll at 877.

Haiti's central civil protection agency, which takes longer to collate numbers because it needs to visually confirm victims itself, said 271 people died as Matthew smashed through the western peninsula on Tuesday with 145 mph (233 kph) winds and torrential rain.

Some 61,500 people were in shelters, the agency said.

Matthew pushed the sea into fragile coastal villages, some of which are only now being contacted.

Coastal town Les Anglais lost "several dozen" people, Louis-Paul Raphael, the central government representative in the region, told Reuters.

Les Anglais was the first place in Haiti that Matthew reached, as a powerful Category 4 storm before it moved north, lost strength and lashed central Florida on Friday.

With cellphone networks down and roads flooded by sea and river water, aid has been slow to reach towns and villages. Instead, locals have been helping each other.

"My house wasn't destroyed, so I am receiving people, like it's a temporary shelter," said Bellony Amazan in the town of Cavaillon, where around a dozen people died. Amazan said she had no food to give people.

Outside Chantal, stall holders at a makeshift market were selling vegetables and soft drinks, brought in from Port-Au-Prince as roads were cleared to the capital.

"All our houses have been destroyed. This is our existence," said one stall holder, who declined to give her name.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Simon Gardner and Paul Tait)

Crisis as 70,000 face hunger in drought-wracked county

A severe humanitarian crisis looms in Tana River County with 70,000 people facing food and water shortages following persistent drought.

The county and national governments have come together to mitigate the situation that administrators termed as “worrying”.

At least 140 villages in Tana Delta, Tana River and Tana North sub-counties have been put under water trucking programme by the county government.

The situation is severest in Tana North, where the county has deployed 30 water bowsers.

“All dams have dried up and the situation is severe,” said Governor Hussein Dado after a meeting with County Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru.

Mr Dado said Sh100 million had been set aside to buy cereals and cooking oil for urgent distribution.

He appealed for help from the World Food Programme (WFP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAid), saying the joint national and county government aid was “a drop in the ocean”.

The governor also asked the national government to release to the residents the 40,000 bags of maize recently harvested from the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Project, which is sandwiched between Tana River and Kilifi counties.

The two levels of government have also allocated Sh12.3 million for mass vaccination of nearly a million livestock against diseases emanating from the dry spell.

“The national government will provide Sh3.2 million through the National Drought Management Authority and the governor has said they have set aside Sh9 million towards the mass vaccination campaign,” said Mr Nakoru.

He said 45,900 people had been put on the national government-sponsored project, Food for Asset, and more beneficiaries will be enlisted in the coming days.

The programme also involves the purchase of livestock in drought-stricken areas for slaughter by the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).

In Tana Delta, 25,000 people in Assa Location and Hurara were in dire need of food and water.

100,000 Trapped in Surrounded South Sudanese Town
Voice of America

GENEVA — The United Nations refugee agency reports that 100,000 people are effectively trapped by violence in the South Sudanese town of Yei. With no one allowed in or out, it warns, the town could soon face a food shortage.

Until recently, Yei — located in Central Equatoria state — has been largely spared from the violence and attacks that have gripped South Sudan since December 2013.

But, the UNHCR says, conditions for the inhabitants of Yei and surrounding areas have deteriorated since renewed conflict between government and rebel forces broke out in July.

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler says the situation came to a head earlier this month when more than 30,000 people in surrounding areas flocked to Yei, following deadly attacks and looting of property.

He tells VOA that government forces are surrounding the town.

"They are restricting access into the town and also preventing people from leaving — presumably because they suspect them of siding with opposition forces,” Spindler said. “Now people are not allowed to leave to go and tend to the fields and the crops. And this potentially could be disastrous."

If farmers are unable to reach their fields, Spindler says, harvests will rot, the upcoming planting season is likely to be missed and there will be no crops next year.

He says the displaced already are feeling the sting of having had to abandon their homes, with food prices soaring as commodities disappear from the market.

"Many internally displaced people have reported that their food stocks have been looted,” Spindler said. “Two local hospitals are functioning at reduced capacity. Lack of high-energy food for malnourished children and breastfeeding mothers is becoming critical."

Aid agencies in Juba are responding by gathering food, non-food items, drugs and other essential supplies, he says. However, the operation is stalled as agencies wait to be granted access to Yei.

The situation adds to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, where some 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes since the conflict began.

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