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Friday, September 24, 2021

Patience runs thin in Haiti quake zone as fights erupt for cash, food

By Friday, aid was flowing bit by bit to Les Cayes, one of the cities on Haiti’s southern peninsula worst hit by the quake, but the limited supplies only raised tensions among increasingly desperate residents.

By: New York Times | Haiti |
August 21, 2021 10:31:12 am
Security personnel hold off a crowd as Michel Martelly, a former president of Haiti, departs after visiting a hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times)

Written by Anatoly Kurmanaev and Maria Abi-Habib

Desperate residents who lost their homes and livelihoods nearly a week ago in Haiti’s earthquake are fighting over what little aid has been delivered, angered by the slow trickle of relief and the lack of government help.

By Friday, aid was flowing bit by bit to Les Cayes, one of the cities on Haiti’s southern peninsula worst hit by the quake, but the limited supplies only raised tensions among increasingly desperate residents.

Fights erupted in Les Cayes after a former president, Michel Martelly, visited a hospital with relief supplies Friday. Supporters scrambled to grab cash donations from Martelly’s bodyguards as he departed in a car. At least one person in the crowd picked up a large stone and tried to attack others, while the crowd chanted, “Kill him, kill him.”

Earlier Friday, gunshots rang out when an angry crowd surrounded a broken-down truck outside of Les Cayes, thinking it carried aid.

And a convoy of four trucks bearing aid was looted on its way to the westernmost part of the stricken southern peninsula, two of them in front of a police station, the aid organization Food for the Poor said in a statement.

The group asked that authorities establish security measures to ensure the safe passage of assistance. “What happened brought frustration and sadness,” it said.

Earlier in the week, two surgeons were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, the capital 80 miles to the east, where they were providing much-needed medical relief to quake victims airlifted there.

The abductions effectively shattered a shaky truce that Haiti’s organized gangs had announced shortly after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Saturday. The kidnappings of the doctors, including one of Haiti’s few orthopedic surgeons, prompted one hospital to close down Thursday for two days in protest, according to The Associated Press.

In the absence of support from the central government in Port-au-Prince, which has been in a state of partial paralysis since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, some prominent Haitian politicians have been visiting the affected area before expected presidential elections later this year.

Martelly was the latest, arriving Friday from abroad in a plane stocked with aid supplies, promising to help the victims as best he could. “We are here to bring support, to bring hope,” he told reporters.

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