People throughout Haiti’s devastated southwest peninsula formed makeshift brigades Tuesday to clear debris and try to get back to their pre-hurricane lives as anger grew over the delay in aid for remote communities more than a week after the Category 4 storm hit.
A community group that formed in the seaside community of Les Anglais began clearing tree limbs from streets and placing them into piles while others gathered scraps of wood to start rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.
Carpenter James Nassau donned a white construction helmet as he rebuilt a neighbor’s wall with recycled wood, hoping to earn a little money to take care of 10 children, including those left behind by his brother, who died in the storm, which hit October 4.
“My brother left five kids, and now I’ve got to take care of them,” he said. “Nobody has come to help.”
The scene repeated itself across small seaside and mountain villages dotting the peninsula, where people pointed out helicopters buzzing overhead and questioned why they haven’t received any help.
Israel Banissa, a carpenter who lives near the small mountain town of Moron, said a Red Cross assessment team stopped outside his village to ask people questions but didn’t leave any supplies.
“There’s no aid that’s come here,” he said as he sawed wood to help rebuild his home and dozens of others. “I don’t think they care about the people up here.”
Health workers in the area are dealing with not only with injuries from the storm but also the threat of a spike in the number of cholera (pronounced COLL-er-uh) cases.
“People will die soon if we don’t get some aid,” health worker Darline Derosier told the Associated Press on Monday.
Derosier was the only one helping about 40 patients inside a police station that was turned into a medical clinic. Some of the patients had cholera, a deadly disease that infects people who drink contaminated water. Cholera has killed roughly 10,000 people in Haiti since 2010 and sickened more than 800,000.
Dominique Legros, a top cholera official at the World Health Organization, said Tuesday that the agency had decided to send 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti “as soon as possible” and said safe drinking water and treatment of those affected by the disease are top priorities.
The National Civil Protection headquarters in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, raised the official nationwide death toll to 473, which included at least 244 deaths in Grand-Anse. But local officials have said the toll in the region tops 500.
In addition to disease, storm survivors faced a lack of food.
Elancie Moise, director for the Department of Agriculture in southern Haiti, said between 80 to 100 percent of crops have been lost across the southern peninsula.
“Crisis is not the word to describe it,” he said. “You need a stronger word. It is much worse. There is no food for people to eat.”
The United Nations humanitarian agency in Geneva, Switzerland, has made an emergency appeal for nearly $120 million in aid, saying about 750,000 people in southwest Haiti alone will need “lifesaving assistance and protection” in the next three months. U.N. officials said earlier that 2.1 million Haitians have been affected by the hurricane.