U.N. raising funds to stop post-hurricane cholera outbreak in Haiti

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 11 (UPI) — The United Nations made an emergency appeal for $120 million in humanitarian aid for Haiti, devastated last week by Hurricane Matthew.

In a “flash appeal” Monday, it called for funding for “lifesaving assistance and protection” for 750,000 people in southwestern Haiti, the area most severely impacted by the storm, for the next three months. At least 1.4 million people need assistance, and about 175,000 still live in emergency shelters, the U.N. humanitarian agency in Geneva, Switzerland, reported.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency said Monday that the death toll from the hurricane reached 372, an increase from 336 it reported Saturday, the majority in Grand Anse, in the southwestern part of the country.

Other reports have put the death toll much higher, some at over 1,000, but the agency has said it is being prudent, only counting deaths after they’ve been confirmed.

Among the fears is a renewed outbreak of cholera, which severely impacted the country in 2010. Thirteen people have died of cholera in Haiti since the hurricane, Interim President Jocelerme Privert said. The disease is spread through water or food contaminated with bacteria, and can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, leading to extreme dehydration. Medical officials in the southwestern part of the country say they have run out of anesthetics and antibiotics.

“A lot of effort has been made to avoid the spread of this epidemic,” Privert said, “but the hurricane has accelerated it.”

Rene Domersant of the Haitian Health Ministry said there are currently 128 confirmed cases of cholera and 160 suspected cases in the country.

Vince DeGennaro, a doctor and medical director for Haiti’s only medical emergency helicopter program, told CNN, “[In] these towns on the southwestern coast, it’s near total destruction. Just about every building was knocked down, even concrete ones. It’s quite frightening to see from the air. People are just sleeping outside and that leads to all sorts of problems with disease.”

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