US military relief in Haiti is part logistics, part negotiation to get supplies to the neediest
ANSE-D’HAINAULT, Haiti – From above, it looks like winter, though it is 85 degrees. Trees are sticks with bare branches, the earth patchy and pale.
Soon the barren landscape gives way to a more devastating story of the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, which swept through Haiti’s southwest peninsula Oct. 4. Beneath the rudders of the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, villages in the west look like garbage dumps, and houses sit naked with gaping holes where their corrugated tin roofs used to be.
On the ground, overwhelmed villagers in Anse-D’Hainault gather on a ridge as the second of two Chinooks lands on a muddy patch of grass. At one corner, three men stop work they are doing to rebuild a house that’s been reduced to an empty shell.
“Everything, everything,” said one of the men, pointing to piles of muddy, ruined clothing strewn over the hillside. It’s all lost.
It’s been almost two weeks since Hurricane Matthew tore through here, leaving at least 546 dead, more than 175,000 displaced and 1.4 million people in need of assistance. Most of the crops are gone; livestock was decimated.
The hardest hit villages were at the western tip of the peninsula, known as the Grand-Anse and the Sud regions, where 90 percent of homes were destroyed, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
U.S. sailors and Marines get right to work, unloading giant jugs of water and boxes containing bags of saline. As the disaster moves through its second week, villages blocked by floods and downed trees are becoming more reachable by road, so they are getting much-needed food. But cholera, best treated with saline IVs, is becoming the new urgent crisis, officials say.
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