Haiti: anger rises as food aid mired in bureaucracy

PORT-AU-PRINCE — More than 100 people were pressed against the iron gates of the mayor's office in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville. "When will we get that food?" voices called out to the mayor, Claire Lydia Parent, who stood behind the closed gates. The problem Parent faced was how to explain to the frustrated crowd that the food they just saw being delivered on Jan. 23 was intended for a neighboring community.

"There is not enough food for everyone; that food was not meant for us. The drivers stopped unloading when they realized their mistake," she told IRIN. The deliverymen confirmed that the bags of rice from USAID were intended for another district of the devastated city.

According to Parent, Petionville has two large camps hosting 30,000 homeless people, but had received no organized food aid since the 12 January earthquake. The World Food Programme (WFP) insisted it had made one delivery to the municipality, formerly one of the most affluent areas of the city, and had made another attempt on Jan. 22.

Chasing rumors
Local resident Weslener Moziere, 31, told IRIN that people were desperately pursuing any rumor of food handouts. "We cannot benefit from food distribution if we do not get the right information. Since we do not know what is true or not, we just run after every hint of food."

Long after Petionville's mayor delivered her bad news to the crowd outside her office, residents lingered on her steps.

Petionville resident Jean-Marc Duvert told IRIN people were simply exhausted and did not know where to turn. "We are hungry and tired of elected officials taking food intended for us."