LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) – Haitians, hungry and homeless by a devastating earthquake, swarmed with relief trucks and, in some cases, stole much-needed goods as the leaders of the poor Caribbean nation struggled to coordinate aid and have it replicated chaotic response to a. to avoid similar tragedy 11 years ago.
The attacks on aid supplies illustrate the growing frustration of the homeless following the August 7.2 earthquake that killed nearly 2,200 people, injured more than 12,000 and destroyed or damaged more than 100,000 homes.
“I’ve been here since yesterday and can’t do anything,” said 23-year-old Sophonie Numa, who was waiting in front of an international aid station in the small town of Camp-Perrin in the hard-hit southwest of Les Cayes region. “I have other people waiting for me to come back with something.”
Numa said her home was destroyed in the quake and her sister broke her leg during the quake.
“The food would help me a lot with the kids and my sister,” she said.
George Prosper was also in the large, frightened crowd waiting for help.
“I am a victim. I was taken out from under the rubble,” said 80-year-old Prosper. “I don’t feel good standing right now. I can barely hold myself.”
In the small port town of Les Cayes, an AP photographer saw people steal foam insulation pads from a truck parked in Red Cross compound while others stole food intended for distribution, said Jean-Michel Saba, a civil society official at the State protection authority. The police managed to escort the food truck safely away, Saba said. He did not say how much was taken. In a community outside of Les Cayes, people also stole tarpaulin from a truck.
Similar thefts appeared to have taken place in the small town of Vye Terre near Les Cayes, where a second AP photographer witnessed a group of men pulling large bags from a half-open container truck. Then the people packed the sacks and hurried away. A man who got away with a package of food was immediately surrounded by others who were trying to snatch it from him when people shouted nearby.
The frustration at the pace of aid has been increasing for days and is reflected in the growing number of people who crowd at the aid distribution points. But Friday was the first time it was that widespread.
To make matters worse, officials began restricting access to the bridge that connects Les Cayes to the small earthquake-hit port town of Jeremie, which meant that relief supplies had to be brought there by boat or plane.
The quake wiped out many of the sources of food and income that the poor depend on in Haiti, which is already grappling with the coronavirus, gang violence and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Most of the devastation occurred in Haiti’s already impoverished southwestern region.
Pressure for coordinated relief increased this week as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the injured continued to arrive from remote areas in search of medical care.
International aid workers on the ground said hospitals in the areas hardest hit by the quake are largely incapacitated and that medical equipment is urgently needed.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Friday called on international governments and aid agencies to channel all of their donations through the country’s civil protection agency, “which will specify the needs of every town, village and unvisited remote area.”
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed met Henry on a two-day mission in Haiti on Thursday and also visited earthquake victims in the city of Les Cayes. She said Friday that she was “particularly impressed with the work” of the Haitian Civil Protection Agency and that the agency “needs to be empowered to lead a coordinated response.”
Henry said earlier this week that his government would work to “not repeat the story of mismanagement and aid coordination,” a reference to the chaos that followed the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake when the government was accused not to get all the money raised from donors to the people who needed it.
Mohammed said this time “it will require investment in long-term development and governance support to do things differently”.
The Core Group, a coalition of key international diplomats from the United States and other nations that oversees Haiti, said in a statement Wednesday that its members “are determined to work with national and local authorities to ensure that the people and areas affected are affected get adequate help ”. as quickly as possible.”
This story was edited to correct the city’s name in Vye Terre rather than Vye Yerre, and to clarify that the food battles took place in Vye Terre, not Les Cayes.
Associate Press Writer Fernando Llano in Vye Terre, Haiti; Edith Lederer at the United Nations; Alan Clendenning in Newbury, Vermont; and Lisa J. Adams Wagner of Evans, Georgia, contributed to this report.
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