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Port au Prince, Haiti, October 14, 2016 (PAHO / WHO)-The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has issued an appeal to donors for $9 million to carry out response operations in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew devastated the southwestern part of the country.

Of the more than 2.1 million Haitians who have been affected by Hurricane Matthew, there are an estimated 750,000 persons are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 175,500 who are living in 224 temporary shelters, according to official reports from the Ministry of Interior of Haiti.

Acute diarrheal diseases including cholera threaten parts of the population, and 75% of the cholera treatment facilities in Sud and GrandAnse departments have been destroyed, while water distribution systems  in the main cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes have almost entirely collapsed.

Haiti already had serious problems of access to health care, water and sanitation before the hurricane, and cases of cholera were already on the rise. Water supply interruptions will increase diarrheal disease including cholera, and unofficial field sources indicate that some 477 suspected cholera cases were reported in the Southern Peninsula in the last 4 days.

PAHO/WHO teams performed field assessments of the health situation in Haiti and identified five main priority areas of action for the health sector, estimating that $9,050,000 in funding would be needed to carry out essential activities in the first three months. Over half of the health facilities evaluated by the experts have sustained severe damage, with loss of equipment for cold chain refrigeration and emergency maternal and newborn care.  Vaccines and medications have been lost, including stocks of HIV medication, and must be quickly replaced, according to PAHO/WHO Hurricane Matthew Situation Reports.

These priorities are: 1) Restore health care delivery capacity and access to health services in the most affected areas;  2) Increase epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks; 3) Intensify vector-control and protective environmental health measures in impacted areas; 4) Ensure rapid and effective response to cholera outbreaks in affected communities; and 5) Support efficient coordination of humanitarian assistance and management of information to effectively address the most urgent humanitarian needs. The funding requirements include $3.55 million for the flash appeal for three months and an additional $5.5 million to implement an emergency cholera vaccination campaign.

The Ministry of Health of Haiti, with the support of PAHO/WHO, established a Cell for Information and Coordination of Emergency Medical Teams to better coordinate the request, reception, deployment and operation of national and international Emergency Medical Teams. With this, "Haiti is the second country in the Americas to establish this highly effective coordination mechanism that proved to be effective after the recent earthquake in Ecuador," said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, director of PAHO's Health Emergencies Department.

Several partners have already expressed their intention to contribute to PAHO's funding request. Canada already confirmed a contribution of 400,000 Canadian dollars to support health emergency response in addition to a similar amount provided earlier for cholera response.

PAHO's response has been substantial, with 35 team members in its Haiti office supporting the Ministry of Health in hurricane operations, field offices established in Jeremie and Les Cayes to help Haitians there, eight international staff deployed and 11 more on the way, and supplies and medicines sent to the field, according to Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, PAHO/WHO Representative in Haiti.

PAHO is working to increase the availability of medicines and medical supplies, is cooperating in the Ministry of Health's organization and planning of the health response to possible outbreaks, and has deployed experts in emergencies and disasters, health services, epidemiological surveillance, logistics, transport and communication to respond to the emergency.

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