Protests, frustrations erupt as earthquake aid hits bottlenecks after reaching Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hunger turned to anger in Haiti’s capital on Wednesday as hundreds of protesters marched through the streets accusing local officials of demanding bribes for donated food.
Aid workers say that food and other supplies are now flowing into the country three weeks after the Jan. 12 quake, but red tape, fear of ambush, transportation bottlenecks and corruption are keeping it from many people who need it.
Hungry protesters jogged along a broad avenue in the Port-au- Prince suburb of Petionville waving branches and chanting, “They stole the rice! They stole the rice!”
One of the protesters, 17-yearold Danka Tanzil, said a local official was demanding a bribe in return for coupons that entitle people to bags of donated food from the UN World Food Program. “For us to get the coupon, we must give 50 Haitian dollars (US$7) so we can get the rice,” she complained.
The World Food Program began distributing the coupons to bring order to the aid distribution and prevent strong young men from forcing themselves to the front of food lines.
The UN agency “is aware of reports that our coupons have been resold, and we’ve also heard allegations of forgeries,” WFP spokeswoman Jennifer Parmelee said. “However, all evidence from our co-operating partners who are managing the distributions ... is that this is not a widespread issue.”
The agency said it has reached more than 300,000 people through the coupon program but needs to reach two million.