People sick with cholera receive medical assistance at Saint Antoine hospital in Jeremi, Haiti, 10 October 2016.
Photograph: EPA/Orlando Barría

The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending 1 million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti to stem the disease in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the UN agency said Tuesday.

However, WHO stressed in a statement that other steps need to be taken even more urgently as infection numbers rise and the annual cholera season approaches.

"The most important line of defence against cholera is to provide clean water to people, and improve sanitation," said Dominique Legros, a WHO cholera expert.

Identifying and treating patients quickly is also a high priority, according to the Geneva-based agency.

Hurricane Matthew, which swept through the Caribbean Sea last week, has left at least 372 people dead and 246 injured in Haiti, while forcing 175,500 people into emergency shelters.

Of Haiti's 197 health facilities, 35 were affected by the floods and heavy winds, Legros said.

The vaccine doses could be used to provide a life-long protection to 500,000 people, or a limited 6-month protection to 1 million people.

Matthew struck Haiti with winds of up to 230 kilometres an hour, flattening homes, roads, infrastructure and farms.

In the north-west of the impoverished country, between 60 and 90 per cent of crops were destroyed, while 100 per cent were wiped out in the south-west, the UN World Food Programme said.

Neighbouring Cuba also saw major damage to its agriculture.

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