After Hurricane Matthew, Cholera Top Concern In Storm-Battered Haiti

HAITI (CBSNewYork/AP) — Efforts continue to help Haitians devastated by Hurricane Matthew after the storm devastated the area, destroying villages and leaving nearly 500 dead.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Matthew Leaves Path Of Destruction On Way To US

With 90 percent of island crops wiped out by the storm, there are fears that survivors will die of starvation, WCBS 880’s Fran Schneidau reported.

Now, workers from Americares are on the ground, helping with relief efforts.

According to Americares spokesperson Donna Porstner, the number one priority right now is delivering supplies and getting medications into the area to fight the threat of disease.

“Right now what we’re really focused on is cholera. This is a water born disease. it spreads very very quickly,” Porstner said.

The Category 4 storm that hit on Oct. 4 has killed at least 473 people, according to national emergency officials, and the wreckage it left behind has created the perfect conditions for spreading the water-borne disease. Matthew sent rivers and outdoor latrines overflowing across the mountainous landscape. Cholera-contaminated water has leeched into people’s drinking wells, those that weren’t ruined by Matthew’s storm surge. 

Many thousands of people whose homes were ruined are sharing close quarters with family and friends, the kind of proximity amid poor sanitation that aids in transmission. Already reports have been trickling in that the disease is spiking.

The World Health Organization says at least 200 suspected cholera cases have been reported across southwest Haiti since Matthew hit and it has pledged to send 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti.

Cholera was unknown in Haiti until the fall of 2010. The disease was apparently introduced by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, part of a contingent of troops who had been rotating through the troubled country since 2004. They improperly disposed of waste from their base in the central plateau and it quickly spread through the network of rivers that people rely on to bathe, wash clothing and for drinking water. Since then, cholera has killed roughly 10,000 people and sickened more than 800,000 in this country.

For more information, or to make a donation to Americares efforts, click here.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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