A Category 4 hurricane would seriously impact any country — but for Haiti, Hurricane Matthew has been a catastrophe.
Thus far, at least 842 people have died as a result of the storm, according to Reuters. The southern city of Jeremie has seen 80 percent of its buildings destroyed, as well as over 29,000 homes in the Sud province. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that about 350,000 people currently need assistance.
Widespread flooding and destruction has blocked roads and damaged power lines, disrupting phone networks and electricity. On Tuesday, a major bridge connecting the capital of Port-au-Prince and southern Haiti, which has been seriously affected by the storm, collapsed.
Jean Joseph told the BBC that there was “complete devastation” in his coastal city of Les Cayes. “What’s going on right now is a lot of people are walking around,” he said. “They have no home. A lot of them — they’re just walking around. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
The hurricane, which has also reached the eastern coast of Florida, is yet another reminder that the effects of natural disasters, increasingly intensified by climate change, are most severely felt by the most vulnerable populations in the poorest countries in the world. While in Florida, there have still been no reported deaths, it has already had a severe impact on Haiti.
And this isn’t the first time, as the country has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters. Most recently, in 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed about 220,000 people, injured 300,000, and left 1.5 million displaced. Six years later, roughly 45,000 people were still living in tents and makeshift shelters, with little to no access to clean water and sanitation. The country is also still trying to battle cholera, which is spread through contaminated water or food, after it was introduced to the country by U.N. peacekeepers in 2010.
The list goes on. Before Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake, the 2008 hurricane season also caused severe damage in Haiti. Four hurricanes that year left nearly 800 people dead, and 60 percent of the country’s harvest was destroyed. Roughly 800,000 people, about 8 percent of the total population, were affected by the storm.
Four years before that, the country experienced its most devastating storm. Hurricane Jeanne and the subsequent flooding killed over 3,000 people. Jeanne was the deadliest storm in the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season and still ranks among the top 30 deadliest Atlantic hurricanes.
Two other hurricanes that have hit Haiti also appear on this list, including Hurricane Flora, which killed over 7,000 people in 1963, and a 1935 hurricane that killed over 2,000 people.
Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world, hasn’t been equipped to deal with these storms. And a U.N. report released earlier this week notes that Haiti isn’t alone. Not only are tropical areas more at risk of climate hazards, but poor countries also have the least resources to handle disasters, and consequently, they also the largest proportionate losses.
“Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” noted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report. “If we are to prevent climate change from exerting further devastating impacts, we must close the development gaps that leave people and communities at risk.”
This piece previously estimated that over 300 people have died as a result of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. That number has since been changed to over 800, due to more recent reports.