Disasters & Accidents

Aid distribution generates tensions in Haiti’s earthquake zone

By Maria Montecelos

Camp-Perrin, Haiti, Aug 19 (EFE).- The hunger stalking residents of southwestern Haiti since last weekend’s magnitude-7.2 earthquake led here Thursday to short-lived disorders as the World Food Program (WFP) distributed emergency rations.

The temblor last Saturday on the Tiburon peninsula left nearly 2,200 people dead and more than 12,000 others injured, according to the latest casualty report, while the United Nations says that some 500,000 Haitians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

People afraid of not getting the parcels of rice and red beans overwhelmed the distribution site at a school in Camp-Perrin.

But seeing the heavily armed police on the scene don their helmets and bullet-proof vests was enough to settle the crowd and the officers were able to restore order and residents got their rations.

More food will be shared out among the town’s 600 worst-affected families in the coming days, the WFP representative in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, told Efe.

Izaelle Chine, a frail-looking woman of 87 who depends on a cane, arrived at the school on foot accompanied by one of her sons, only to leave empty-handed because her name was not on the list of aid recipients.

It was a different story for Caresise Sederne, who told Efe that she received enough food for her family of eight.

While the WFP delegation reached Camp-Perrin by road, the route from there to another hard-hit town, Jeremie, was impassable, so that shipment had to be delivered by helicopter from the airport in Les Cayes, which was spared major damage in the quake.

Sharing the runway with the WFP chopper on Thursday was a small aircraft dispatched to bring two earthquake victims in serious condition to Port-au-Prince for medical care.

Nearby was a US Navy helicopter carrying the elements of a field hospital being set up by the humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse.

Around 500,000 people – equivalent to 40 percent of the population of the provinces of Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud – require emergency aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Nearly 61,000 homes in the affected area have been completely destroyed and more than 76,000 others suffered serious damage, displacing hundreds of thousands.

A significant number of those left homeless by the January 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince that killed as many as 300,000 people were still without permanent dwellings as of the beginning of this year. EFE mmv/dr

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