Desperate Haitians rush aid convoys after earthquake

Survivors of the devastating Haiti earthquake looted an aid convoy on Friday as the impoverished Caribbean nation scrambled to deploy a relief effort racked by the chaotic response to past natural disasters.

Harassment of relief supplies and tumultuous handouts underscored the despair in the wake of last week’s powerful earthquake, which killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed or damaged more than 130,000 homes.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake robbed tens of thousands of Haitians everything they owned in a matter of seconds, and the search for necessities like clean water and food is now a daily struggle for many.

And while humanitarian convoys have begun distributing aid, quantities have been insufficient and those responsible for delivering supplies often lack experience in logistics.

An AFP photographer captured chaotic scenes on Friday in Les Cayes, one of the worst-hit cities, as sacks of rice were handed out to clamoring crowds.

Looters were able to raid one of the two supply trucks before police intervened, according to the photographer, and the remaining goods were randomly delivered to the local police station.

Desperate Haitians have had to rely on the generosity of their neighbors and relatives, many of whom have little to spare.

“I have a friend who came from (the capital) Port-au-Prince to bring me water and food and I shared it with my neighbors. He also gave me some clothes,” said Marcel Francois, a father of two who was dragged away. of the rubble from the earthquake after three hours buried under cement.

From the ruins of his home on the road connecting Les Cayes to the airport, he now has a front row seat to the recovery effort.

“I see many authorities marching, processions of officials with their sirens and large NGO cars. Aid trucks also pass by, but nothing has arrived for me,” said the 30-year-old man.

‘No one has come to help us’

Even before last week’s powerful earthquake, Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, was affected by mounting Covid-19 cases and a political crisis that culminated last month with the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

The nation is also recovering from the 2010 earthquake that shook the capital and killed more than 200,000.

More than 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless by that disaster, and dozens of survivors spent years living in tents dealing with a deadly cholera epidemic, despite billions of dollars in foreign donations and promised aid.

In an echo of that earlier tragedy, officials have tried to keep optimism afloat once again with promises to “build back better.”

“We have seen an incredible moment of unity in the earthquake response, so we believe this can become an opportunity to rebuild for the better,” UN Deputy Director Amina Mohammed said on Friday after a 24-hour visit. hours.

But the lofty promises ring hollow to the victims of the latest crisis to hit Haiti.

Although aid workers have warned against repeating mistakes that hampered the 2010 response, tent cities are already popping up on vacant lots in urban centers.

And while Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to hold elections as soon as possible, ordinary Haitians are eager to start getting help.

“We lead a miserable life,” Wilford Roosvelte, an earthquake survivor, told AFP from a football stadium full of tents.

“The ground is flooded with rain. This is where people sleep. No one from the authorities has come to help us.”


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