By AMY BRACKEN, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Last year there was drought followed by flash floods at Christmas. This year, an armed revolt left the nation in shambles. Now, as they try to meet growing needs with limited resources, aid agencies confront yet another disaster in Haiti’s never-ending cycle of crises.
Deadly rains have left more than 50,000 homeless, helpless and hungry in floods that lashed Haiti and the Dominican Republic and killed at least 1,000 people, aid workers said.
Aid agencies braced for epidemics, particularly in Haiti’s southwest corner where workers are trying to free trapped corpses that risk contaminating water sources. The putrid, standing water could cause eruptions of dysentery, hepatitis, giardia and E. Coli. Mosquitos, which carry parasites that cause malaria and dengue fever, already are breeding in the standing water.
“The last disaster that mobilized a global response like this was an earthquake in Iran,” Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said of the quake that killed at least 26,000 people last year. “It is a very serious catastrophe in an area that was already in crisis.”
The U.N. World Food Program was having to dip into supplies meant for victims of the rebellion that helped force President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power Feb. 29. Rebels blocked roads, preventing food and fuel shipments from reaching tens of thousands of drought victims in northern Haiti.
On Friday, aid workers rushed to deliver rice and beans to flood victims, but torrents that washed out and submerged roads left them dependent on U.S. military helicopters with a small capacity. Deliveries were taking days to complete and could continue for weeks.
Many of the worst affected villages remain under water.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was working with French Doctors Without borders to build a hospital in Mapou.
“We have people here with broken legs and gashes (from) roof sheets flying away and cutting them,” said Erich Baumann of the Geneva-based ICRC.
Hundreds were injured in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, where hospitals already were short of medicines from looting during the February revolt.
Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services said its clinic in the southern Haitian town of Fond Verrettes was destroyed by the floods. A few badly injured people were being medically evacuated by U.S.-led peacekeepers to hospitals around the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“This is the toughest year ever,” said Ed Baptiste, 42, trying to sell faded Haitian paintings on the side of the road.
Left bankrupt by Aristide’s administration, Haiti’s interim leaders are struggling to find money to rebuild and prepare for elections next year while keeping a tentative peace.