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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Haiti aid hard to come by one month after hurricane
By Amelie BARON
Les Cayes, Haiti (AFP) Nov 6, 2016


A month post-hurricane, Haiti's most vulnerable desperate for aid
Jérémie, Haiti (AFP) Nov 7, 2016 - As she attempts to build a small shelter with old sheets, single mother Fabienne Jacynthe scolds children playing with the precious few rusty nails she could find.

Hammer in hand, the 20-year-old Haitian is one of some hundred victims occupying the wasteland along the road to Jeremie, one of the Haitian cities most devastated by Hurricane Matthew in early October.

"We are on private property and the owner has asked us to leave, but we have nowhere to go," Jacynthe said, smiling despite her struggles.

"My son's father died last year -- I have no money to pay someone so I am forced to build it alone."

The island nation's most vulnerable have largely been left to take care of themselves, causing alarm among some international bodies.

"If you're in these makeshift shelters, there are real protection issues," said John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"We've got to keep the most vulnerable people at the center of our focus and make sure that in 2016 they have protection, safety, they are not being exploited or raped, or had violence committed against them."

As the informal camp slowly starts to establish itself, Jacynthe, who lives alone with her three-year-old son, is relying on the goodwill of her neighbors for protection.

"Here, we are all supporting each other to ensure our safety because authorities have done nothing for us," said the young woman.

"I've learned how to manage this fear because this is just the situation -- we have to deal with it."

- "They should have let us die" -

In addition to Jeremie's desperate residents living in the streets, the city that is home to nearly 100,000 people is also worried about thousands more facing evacuation from shelters.

Some 3,000 victims of the hurricane's wrath are now crammed into the classrooms of the Nord Alexis school.

Teenage mother Cristella Alcine's baby sleeps on a blanket that provides scant relief from the concrete floor where he was born just one month ago.

"The delivery did not go well at all: women who were there in the room helped me but I never saw a doctor," said the 16-year-old girl sitting in a room plagued by flies.

"They told me to give treated water to my baby, but I couldn't find it every day."

The girl's mother, Mirlande Alcine, is concerned about the possibility that those sheltered in the school could be evacuated soon.

After more than a month without holding classes, the Ministry of Education wants students to return Monday to the facility, which is also slated to serve as a polling station for the long-awaited November 20 elections.

"The state must sort itself out because if they are going to throw us into the streets, they should have let us die in the cyclone," the infant's grandmother said.

The school's toilets have been broken for two weeks and police-installed lighting in the courtyard stopped working three days ago for lack of fuel.

But the last thing those who have found shelter in the school want is to leave without the guarantee of minimum aid to repair their ravaged homes.

The damage inflicted by the hurricane's rampage through the impoverished Caribbean nation was exacerbated by the dire lack of urban planning there.

A torrent of garbage-saturated water cut off the main street of Jeremie during a seasonal storm over the weekend, and 61-year-old resident Marie-Andre Henri must again remove the mud that has invaded her small house just a month after losing everything in the hurricane, she said.

Henri said the back-to-school shoes she just bought for her granddaughter are now lost at sea.

"We need something done: we can't take this anymore," she said.

In southern Haiti, trunks of uprooted trees still litter fields and beaches as if Hurricane Matthew blew through and left its trail of death and destruction only yesterday.

If it weren't for the blue plastic tarps that now cover damaged homes, the scene one month after the storm would be practically identical to the days following the October 4 landfall.

Among the felled coconut trees, a single plastic tarp offers little protection from the elements for Jean Robert Sima and his 92-year-old father, who rests on a mattress.

"A man I had done some work for is letting us use his house to spend the night because he is abroad, but that's only for a few days" and only at night, Sima said.

Every day, Sima and his family visit the ruins of their home which he hopes to rebuild. But with his crops ruined, he has no money to buy materials and is unable to find any help.

- 'People grow agitated' -

The southern region of Haiti, considered the country's breadbasket, was hardest-hit by the powerful storm, which packed winds of 150 miles (250 kilometers) per hour and killed 546 people, according to official figures.

Thirty miles away in Les Cayes, the capital of the southern department, a teenager was shot dead on Tuesday as a ship was unloading humanitarian aid.

"When aid is distributed, people grow agitated and belligerent," said Sima's wife Jiland.

"The Haitian officials are dishonest because they first take aid for their loved ones. You can be there with your kids and nothing else, but they still won't give you anything."

Receiving aid is a challenge for the tens of thousands of local residents in part because there have been no comprehensive surveys of how much assistance is needed due to the extent of the damaged area.

Just two miles awa, a religious group has discreetly distributed plastic tarps and tools to build temporary shelters.

"We conducted surveys in remote areas to verify who is in need," said Bertrand Enoc with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

Hundreds of people have received emergency kits from a truck parked inside the police station in the small town of Roche-a-Bateaux.

"We cannot help everyone, so some people will receive nothing and could be tempted to protest in the streets," Enoc said.

The lucky families head to their damaged homes with aid packages tied to motorcycle taxis or on mules, under the jealous gaze of downtown residents.

- 'Never enough' -

"From the people's point of view it's never enough and they are right," said John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"But if we take a step back and we see the number that has been reached, the quality of the assistance, it is a good operation. It does need of course to speed up but it also needs to be done properly," said Ging, who was in southern Haiti on Friday.

The issue of security is paramount for agencies distributing aid.

"It's a legitimate frustration but of course expressing their frustration in ways like looting the aid, creating security problems at aid distribution, that's not going to help anybody," Ging said.

The World Food Program has distributed food assistance to nearly 400,000 people one month after Hurricane Matthew, but the UN estimates nearly four times that number are in need.

One major problem remains insufficient funding: the World Food Program needs $58 million to carry out its work in Haiti and organize the difficult logistics to reach remote areas. So far it has only $18 million.

Such underfunding is exasperating for Ging, who complains of rich nations shirking their commitments.

"If the G7 and the G20 (groups of nations) would step up to their state of commitment of 0.7 percent of GNI for overseas development aid, we would have another $158 billion available for humanitarian and development assistance," he said.


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