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Sandy threatens Haiti with food crisis, cholera epidemic

Sandy's flooding and unsanitary conditions have caused severe crop damage in Haiti, and could lead to a rash of cholera cases.

Haiti hurricane sandy Enlarge
A child walks through damaged fields in Leogane, south of Port-au-Prince, one day after Hurricane Sandy passed through Haiti on October 27, 2012. (Thony Belizaire /AFP/Getty Images)

Haiti is reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which hammered the Caribbean island with over three days of heavy rain and is threatening to cause a food crisis and cholera epidemic.

The storm claimed 52 lives in Haiti, the highest death toll from any country impacted by Sandy so far, and the consequent flooding has severely damaged the crop supply and caused unsanitary conditions ripe for the spread of cholera and other waterborne diseases, Al Jazeera reported

"We are facing a huge crisis," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said, according to the New York Times. He called Sandy's impact devastating, "even by international standards," adding that that the nation was organizing an appeal for emergency aid.

"Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy," Lamothe said, Reuters reported, "so food security will be an issue."

In April 2008, an increase in food prices triggered violent protests and political instability in the country, and Haitians had again been protesting the rising costs of food before Sandy hit. 

The Ministry of Agriculture's director for the southern department Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques told Reuters he worried that the massive crop loss "could aggravate the situation."

More from GlobalPost: Full Coverage: Hurricane Sandy

"The storm took everything away," said Jean-Jacques. "Everything the peasants had in reserve — corn, tubers — all of it was devastated. Some people had already prepared their fields for winter crops and those were devastated."

As many as 370,000 tents and concrete homes of those who had been displaced during the earthquake were also destroyed, BET reported

Lisa Laumann, Haiti's director for Save the Children, told the Guardian that while NGOs like hers are still playing a large role in Haiti, they were working under government leadership more and more.

"What we saw during tropical storm Isaac and I think in tropical storm Sandy as well is a government that is challenged by the recurrent disasters that hit the country but also a government that is increasingly able to deal with this type of disaster," Laumann said.

"I don't want to sound like I think the government has infinite capacity to respond … but I think it's important to recognize that the government does have increasing ability to coordinate and manage disaster preparedness and response here," she added. 

However, many others on the ground in Haiti were not as optimistic. 

"We'll have famine in the coming days," Kechner Toussaint, mayor of Abricots, a hard-hit community on Haiti's Southwestern tip, told BET. "It's an agricultural disaster."

More from GlobalPost: Post-quake US food aid hurt Haiti farmers

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/haiti/121030/sandy-threatens-haiti-food-crisis-cholera-epidemic