Haiti storm vic­tims be­moan aid chaos

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

JEREMIE: Rickety struc­tures made of sheet metal and scrap wood are clus­tered along the road to the Haitian city of Jeremie, which still hasn’t seen any aid nearly three weeks af­ter Hur­ri­cane Matthew. In a scene that is eerily sim­i­lar to the dev­as­ta­tion in Port-au-Prince af­ter the 2010 earth­quake, when hun­dreds of thou­sands of sur­vivors had to cram into ev­ery avail­able space, fam­i­lies are liv­ing in makeshift camps. In one such camp on the side of the road, Do­minique Pier­reLouis is trying to start a mo­tor­cy­cle cov­ered in mud. “I fixed it so I can try to earn a lit­tle money by driv­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle taxi,” said the 42-year-old, who nor­mally works as a brick­layer. “I just want a job, I don’t need any char­ity. I’m a pro­fes­sional, I can help my­self.” Be­fore the hur­ri­cane swept over Haiti, leav­ing hun­dreds dead, Pierre-Louis and his fam­ily lived out­side Jeremie. But af­ter days of not re­ceiv­ing any aid, he moved his wife and eight chil­dren to this muddy road­side camp. In the past two weeks, con­voys car­ry­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief have driven by, but none has stopped. The fam­ily is now liv­ing in a small space made of sheet metal and tarps. Pierre-Louis’s wife Dieula, who has asthma and has been ill, rests on wooden planks cov­ered by a sheet while their chil­dren scramble naked in the mud.

‘Too many losses’

“I was in the hospi­tal for eight days, I was bet­ter but the fever came back yes­ter­day,” she said, her face cov­ered in sweat. “I should go back but I can’t af­ford it.” Aside from a cholera treat­ment cen­ter set up on the grounds of Jeremie’s par­tially dam­aged pub­lic hospi­tal, there is no free med­i­cal care in this city, which bore the brunt of Matthew’s might. At night, Pierre-Louis sleeps sit­ting up in a plas­tic chair, the only pos­ses­sion they were able to save from their home. Two of the younger chil­dren sleep on his lap.

His sick wife shares their makeshift bed with their six other chil­dren. But Dieula doesn’t com­plain too much about her sit­u­a­tion. “The sol­i­dar­ity that usu­ally binds Haitians has been rup­turedthere are too many homes de­stroyed, too many losses. The state can’t do any­thing, it’s too much,” she said. A few me­ters away, Fil­ton Jan­vier is more an­gry, and re­fuses to ac­cept that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has aban­doned him. “We’re just on the side of the road. Au­thor­i­ties go by, the mayor just passed by, and even the pres­i­dent was here. But no one came to ask us how we were do­ing,” the 39-year-old said, seething with rage. “I pay my taxes, I con­trib­ute like ev­ery­one else... I don’t un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing. It makes me an­gry be­cause it makes me ques­tion our hu­man­ity,” he added, as he watched an­other group of ve­hi­cles from a non-gov­ern­men­tal aid or­ga­ni­za­tion drive by.

Empty hands

Af­ter the main roads were again open to traf­fic, aid started trick­ling into Jeremie, but the lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the for­eign agen­cies has stalled its dis­tri­bu­tion to those in need. On the city’s main street, res­i­dents spot a bit of a crowd: Food and con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als are be­ing handed out by city hall, peo­ple say-and it’s go­ing south. “The cop at the en­trance or­dered me to back up-I did it but peo­ple were push­ing me from be­hind. The cop hit me with his ba­ton and I fell down,” said Rene Jean-Fritz, point­ing to his blood­ied knees. “These cops did not come to help peo­ple, they just came to beat us up,” he charged, and on­look­ers voiced their agree­ment.

For Pierre-Louis, peo­ple are not look­ing for hand­outs but just need the bare min­i­mum so they no longer have to sleep in the rain. “I just needed two tarps to cover the dam­aged part of my house. I don’t need rice. They should use he­li­copters to give that to peo­ple in the moun­tains who have noth­ing,” he said. Jean-Fritz, still an­gry, did not get any­thing at the aid giveaway. He got the plas­tic card grant­ing him ac­cess to the dis­tri­bu­tion point the night be­fore from a friend who had sev­eral dozen of them. No lo­cal of­fi­cials or aid group ver­i­fied that those who queued up for aid were truly in need. — AFP

JEREMIE: Le­olien pre­pares food next what re­mains of her house de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew in the neigh­bor­hood of Deye Distriyel in Jeremie, in the southwest of Haiti. —AFP

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