Hurricane Matthew: New life amid Haiti’s ‘forgotten disaster’

Updated 1:18 PM EDT, Mon October 10, 2016
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Story highlights

A crisis in Haiti as limited health care meets natural disaster

Conditions at hospital called horrific

(CNN) —  

Jean-Atan Cadet and twin brother Jonas were welcomed into the world as the hemisphere’s poorest nation embarks on another painful recovery.

Hours after Hurricane Matthew cut a destructive path across Haiti, their mother Julienne found herself in distress and bleeding during labor.

Cadet, 35, had been trudging alone on a dirt road near the rural southwestern community of Fond-des-Blancs. Workers from St. Boniface Hospital spotted her, the hospital’s resident coordinator, Kat White, said in a phone interview Friday night.

A motorcycle the expectant mother had hired for the journey was unable to cross a river.

Julienne Cadet is helped across a river near Fond-des-Blancs.
Courtesy St. Boniface Hospital
Julienne Cadet is helped across a river near Fond-des-Blancs.

“I was in so much pain,” Cadet told White. “I was afraid I would lose the babies or pass away.”

An ambulance rushed Cadet to St. Boniface. On Wednesday afternoon, she had one of four emergency cesarean sections performed at the hospital during the hurricane, according to White.

Cadet was fortunate.

At least 300 people have died since Matthew made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday as a Category 4 hurricane, according to Paul Altidor, Haitian ambassador to the United States.

The death toll is expected to rise as remote areas isolated by washed-out bridges become accessible, the ambassador said.

02:15 - Source: CNN
Hurricane Matthew leaves hundreds dead in Haiti

UN officials said the hurricane is the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the devastating 2010 earthquake, which killed about 200,000 people.

The country was only starting to rebuild when Matthew struck southwestern peninsula with 125 mph (200 kph) winds and heavy rains that destroyed homes, flooded villages, razed crops, swept away cattle and cut off the parts of the island.

“One of our physicians on a helicopter over the hardest hit areas said there are villages that just don’t exist anymore,” Ralph McDaniel, executive director of Ayiti Air Anbilans, the country’s only helicopter ambulance service, said from Port au Prince.

“Another person on the helicopter said they didn’t see anybody on the streets. They didn’t see any cars. They didn’t see anything. Was that because the people had all evacuated or because they are casualties? We don’t know.”

Conor Shapiro, who runs St. Boniface Hospital and a number of local clinics through the Massachusetts-based St. Bonifice Haiti Foundation, told CNN that road conditions after the storm had prevented patients from reaching the hospital.

“We are very concerned this is a forgotten disaster,” he said. “At first, reports said there were three deaths. Now, reports go up to hundreds of deaths, but then we’re out of contact with the entire parts of western side of the southern peninsula.”