Patients arrived every 10 or 15 minutes, brought on motorcycles by relatives with vomit-covered shoulders and hoisted up the stairs into southwest Haiti’s Port-a-Piment hospital, where they could rest their weak, cholera-sapped limbs.
Less than a week since Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing at least 1,000 people according to a tally of numbers from local officials, devastated corners of the country are facing a public health crisis as cholera gallops through rural communities lacking clean water, food and shelter, reports Reuters.
Reuters visited the Port-a-Piment hospital early on Sunday morning, the first day southwestern Haiti’s main coastal road had become semi-navigable by car.
At that time, there were 39 cases of cholera, according to Missole Antoine, the hospital’s medical director. By the early afternoon, there were nearly 60, and four people had died of the waterborne illness.
“That number is going to rise,” said Antoine, as she rushed between patients laid out on the hospital floor.
Although there were 13 cases of cholera before Matthew hit, Antoine said the cases had risen drastically since the hurricane cut off the desperately poor region.
The hospital lacks an ambulance, or even a car, and Antoine said many new patients were coming from miles away, carried by family members on camp beds.
Inside the hospital, grim-faced parents cradled young children whose eyes had sunk back and were unable to prop up their own heads.
Out on the streets, the scene was also shocking. For miles on end, almost all the houses were reduced to little more than rubble and twisted metal. Colorful clothes were littered among the chaos.
The region’s banana crop was destroyed with vast fields of plantain flattened into a leafy mush. With neither government or foreign aid arriving quickly, people relied on felled coconuts for food and water.
The stench of death, be it human or animal, was everywhere.
In the village of Labei, near Port-a-Piment, locals said the river had washed down cadavers from villages upstream. With nobody coming to move the corpses, residents used planks of driftwood to push them down the river and into the sea.
Down by the shore, the corpse of one man lay blistering in the sun. A few hundred meters to his left in a roadside gully, three dead goats stewed in the toxic slime.
“It seems to me like a nuclear bomb went off,” said Paul Edouarzin, a United Nations Environmental Program employee based near Port-a-Piment.