Haiti: quake victims protest corruption in food distribution

On Feb. 3 several hundred Haitians marched in PĂ©tionville, a generally well-to-do suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince, to protest what they said was corruption in the distribution of food to survivors of a Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the capital and surrounding cities. The demonstrators said PĂ©tionville mayor Claire Lydie Parent was illegally charging 150 gourdes (about $3.77) each for the coupons now being used to organize distribution of food. The protest began in front of the military academy on the Route de Frères and then moved to an encampment outside the mayor’s office.

Port-au-Prince metropolitan area residents charge that aid distribution has been slow and chaotic. Although tons of food have come to Haiti from international relief efforts, many survivors had received little or no aid more than three weeks after the earthquake. On Feb. 3 US marines were guarding long lines of hundreds of people waiting in the hot sun outside food distribution centers in PĂ©tionville, in the capital and in the western suburb of Carrefour. To keep men from taking all the food, aid agencies had started limiting distribution to women, but the Haitian media noted that the women seemed exhausted after transporting the heavy bags of rice.

A week earlier, a similar protest broke out in the city of Léogane, west of Port-au-Prince, near the quake’s epicenter.

The protests in PĂ©tionville resumed on Feb. 7 as demonstrators, mostly women, banged on plastic buckets and waved branches and palm fronds outside the mayor’s office. “I’m hungry, I’m dying of hunger,” a protester said. “Lydie Parent keeps the rice and doesn’t give us anything. They never go distribute where we live.” “If the police shoot at us, we’ll burn everything,” the protesters chanted, but the police didn’t intervene. (Haiti Press Network, Feb. 3; Radio MĂ©tropole, Feb. 4; Reuters, Feb. 7)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 7

See our last post on Haiti.