Sandy gives Haiti more headaches

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

AT THE edge of disaster, a few days of rain can be lethal. On Monday, the scale of damage in Haiti from Hurricane Sandy became evident. Even though the storm’s centre skirted the country, more than 20 inches of rain fell on Haiti’s south and southwest over four days last week, causing at least 52 deaths, tearing out crops and destroying houses.

“We are facing a major crisis,” prime minister Laurent Lamothe said after he flew over the regions that had been hit by the storm. The government said that the homes of as many as 200,000 people had been damaged – on top of almost 400,000 people still homeless from the January 2010 earthquake. “We have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of the aid that we will need to deliver in the days, weeks and months to come,” Mr Lamothe said. “It won’t be easy because there are many roads and bridges that have been cut off.”

Coming on the heels of Tropical Storm Isaac in August, the latest storm has piled new misfortune on Haiti as it struggles to recover from the earthquake and the cholera epidemic that broke out 10 months later, which has killed thousands and sickened more than half a million people.

“You get so set back by each storm, it gets hard to keep the forward momentum,” said Deborah Jenson, the director of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Duke University.

Ms Jenson was talking about the efforts to reverse Haiti’s dramatic level of deforestation, which magnifies the effects of storms, turning rainfall into destructive torrents rushing down denuded hillsides.

But in describing the setbacks to growing new trees, she could as easily have been talking about efforts to rebuild the poorest country in the Americas and provide its people with even the most basic elements of decent living conditions. The immediate concern is to prevent a new spike in cholera cases.– (New York Times)