Death Toll in Haiti Surpasses 3000, Agencies Continue Relief Efforts

Nearly three weeks after Jeanne swept north of Haiti, lashing at the Caribbean nation, the death toll rose to more than 3,000 government officials announced Tuesday
( [email protected] ) Oct 06, 2004 06:41 AM EDT

Nearly three weeks after Jeanne swept north of Haiti, lashing at the Caribbean nation, the death toll rose to more than 3,000 government officials announced Tuesday, as what they said was the final death tally. The toll had climbed steadily as rescue workers reached remote areas and recovered bodies buried in the mud.

Whole villages had been washed away following last month's devastating flooding in Haiti set off by Jeanne, the tropical storm-turned hurricane. Jeanne was the most recent in a string of destructive storms this season, dumping millions of gallons of rain as it passed over northern Haiti, triggering widespread flooding in the mostly deforested region. Fragile infrastructure has been further damaged, and crops and livestock have been lost to the floodwaters.

Haiti's secretary of state for the environment, Yves André Wainright, said those killed in the flooding numbered 3,006, including 2,826 in the coastal city of Gonaives. In addition, official reports from the Directorate of Civil Protection (DCP) in Haiti indicate that almost 300,000 persons were affected, 4,471 houses were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands in northern Haiti are in need of food, water and basic necessities as desperate efforts are made to restore peace in nation already torn by political turmoil.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, has continued to work with the local church and other partners in the hardest-hit areas to assist those in need.

“We are responding to this terrible emergency situation alongside the local church, community groups and other aid organizations,” said Jed Hoffman, Latin America Regional Director for CRS. “Coordination is very important since there are many groups trying to respond, and the security situation is making it very difficult to get food and other relief items to the people who most need them.”

“Our response is aimed first at meeting life-sustaining immediate needs. But we are also beginning to design and carry out the long-term rebuilding effort,” Hoffman added. “We are determined that the people who are most in need will get help despite the dangers of violence at distribution sites and looting from armed gangs in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives.”

CRS’ efforts will reach 25,000 of the most vulnerable—orphans, the elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS—with food, water, medical attention and replacement household necessities. In concert with this, the agency will work with local Caritas partners in Gonaives, Port-de-Paix and Cap Haitien to distribute tools and seeds and rehabilitate wells.

Meanwhile, Action by Churches Together (ACT) has recently set their appeal target for $1,004,946 (USD) to aid in relief efforts. The balance requested from the ACT Alliance also includes $781,946 (USD).

The alliance also reported that ACT members in Haiti, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Diakonie Emergency Aid (DEA) are proposing to respond in the area of Gonaives and the north and west of the Artibonite where ACT Haiti is present through LWF partners Federation Protestant d’Haiti and Service Chretien d’Haiti. DEA is present through its partner World Neighbors. The proposed assistance comprises:

- Food assistance

- Non-food assistance (medicines, kitchen utensils)

- Water and sanitation

- Clearing of debris

- Recovery of schools

- Agriculture and livestock recovery

- Income generating activities

ACT members in Haiti are working on a more developed proposal, but this appeal is being issued immediately due to the urgency of the situation and needs in the affected areas.

The alliance estimates their project completion date to be May 31, 2005.