Sandy: Haiti fears food shortages after hurricane
Fears are growing of food shortages in Haiti, after the strong winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Sandy caused extensive crop damage.
Aid workers and officials are also warning that flooding could lead to a sharp rise in cholera cases.
Sandy is blamed for some 70 deaths in the Caribbean. Of these more than 50 were in Haiti.
In Jamaica and Cuba, which took direct hits from the hurricane, the clean-up is also continuing.
Sandy, which was a category one hurricane when it clipped Haiti last week, brought heavy rain and flooding.
At least 54 people died in what Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe called a “disaster of major proportions”.
Haiti was hit when it was already down. At least 20,000 people have been made homeless by the storm.
But the astonishing truth is that a casual visitor to Haiti probably wouldn’t even notice this new wave of misery; that’s because hundreds of thousands of people were already living in flimsy shelters after their homes collapsed in an earthquake two years ago.
Heavy rains rushed down mountainsides denuded of most of their forest cover by generations of over-farming. Most rivers in the south of the country burst their banks, according to latest UN reports, causing extensive damage to agriculture.
There is also concern about a new upsurge in the current cholera epidemic. The disease is spread by dirty water. Every time there is heavy rain, Haiti’s decrepit sewers overflow. More than 7,500 people have died from the current epidemic. More will die now.
There is concern that floods and unsanitary conditions could led to an increase in cholera cases.
More than 7,500 people have died in the cholera epidemic in Haiti since late 2010. Hundreds of new cases are still being registered every week.
Another big worry is the damage to the agriculture sector.
More than 70% of crops – including bananas, plantains and maize – were destroyed in the south of the country, officials said.
Food insecurity, particularly in this part of Haiti, was already a major concern.
Rising food prices have in the past triggered at times violent demonstrations in Haiti.
In Jamaica, Sandy caused extensive damage to crops, including coffee and bananas.
Dozens of houses were destroyed and many more damaged.
“Even before the hurricane we faced serious economic challenges. This has been made worse by the passage of Hurricane Sandy,” Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said.
Eleven people died in Cuba, making Sandy one of the deadliest storms there in recent years.
The eastern province of Santiago was the worst-hit, with flooding and landslides destroying crops, knocking out power and damaging buildings.
President Raul Castro, who toured the area on Sunday, warned that recovery would take a long time.
“It’s been hard. But Santiago is Santiago. It’s resisted gales and wars of every type. It will overcome this,” he was quoted as saying by the Communist Party newspaper Granma.