Relief after earthquake arrives in Haiti, gangs kidnap two doctors

Relief after earthquake arrives in Haiti, gangs kidnap two doctors

Relief for victims of a powerful earthquake and tropical storm began to flow faster into Haiti on Thursday, but the Caribbean nation’s poverty, insecurity and lack of basic infrastructure still presented huge challenges in providing food and emergency medical care to all who need it. this.
Private relief supplies and consignments from the US government and other countries were arriving in the southwestern peninsula where the weekend earthquake struck, killing more than 2,100 people. But the need was dire, made worse by the rain from Tropical Storm Grace, and people were increasingly frustrated by the slow pace.

Adding to the problems, a large hospital in the capital of Port-au-Prince, where wounded from the earthquake area in the southwestern peninsula were sent, was closed Thursday for a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping. two doctors, including one of the few orthopedic surgeons in the country.

The kidnappings were a blow to attempts to control the criminal violence that threatened disaster response efforts in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency noted the death toll from the earthquake to 2,189 on Wednesday evening and said 12,268 people were injured. It is estimated that 300 people are still missing, said Serge Chery, head of civil defense for the southern province, which includes Les Cayes.

A resident of Camp-Perrin receives food from the World Food Program (WFP) in Camp-Perrin near Les Cayes, after the earthquake that took place on August 14 [Henry Romero/Reuters]

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake damaged or destroyed more than 100,000 homes, leaving around 30,000 families homeless, according to official estimates. Hospitals, schools, offices and churches were also demolished or badly damaged.

The United States deployed several heavy lift helicopters and other aircraft to move relief supplies and personnel to the disaster area and sent the USS Arlington to provide additional transport and medical capabilities, the general said. of division Hank Taylor to reporters at the Pentagon.

One of the American helicopters landed in Les Cayes on Thursday with equipment, medicine and volunteers, including some from the humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse. Monte Oitker, a biomedical technician with the organization, said the volunteers were ready to operate a self-contained hospital unit, capable of handling a variety of orthopedic procedures.

Distributing aid to the thousands of homeless will be more difficult.

Chery said officials hoped to start cleaning up sites where homes were destroyed to allow residents to build temporary shelters.

“It will be easier to distribute aid if people live at their addresses, rather than in a tent,” he said.

The tension over the slow pace of aid delivery has become increasingly evident in the area hardest hit by Saturday’s earthquake. At the small airport in the southwestern town of Les Cayes, people crowded into a perimeter fence on Wednesday as aid was loaded into trucks and police fired warning shots to disperse a crowd of young men.

Angry crowds have also gathered outside the city’s collapsed buildings, demanding tarps to create temporary shelters after Grace’s heavy rains.

International aid workers have said hospitals in the worst-affected areas are mostly incapacitated, requiring many to be moved to the capital for treatment. But reaching Port-au-Prince from the southwest is difficult under normal conditions due to poor roads and gangs along the route.

Even with a supposed truce from the gangs following the earthquake, kidnappings remain a threat – underlined by the seizure of two doctors working at the private hospital Bernard Mevs in Port-au-Prince, where around 50 earthquake victims were being treated .

And another problem emerged in the quake-damaged southern provinces, where national police said villagers erected road barricades to prevent aid from passing, arguing that they also needed help. .

Earthquake left tens of thousands homeless and in need of help [Henry Romero/Reuters]

“For those people who block the roads as they please to prevent them (aid) from reaching the population, you have to wait for the help to reach you,” said the spokesperson for the National Police, Marie- Michelle Verrier. She said special police units would escort aid shipments. Verrier also said 22 prisoners escaped from Les Cayes prison after the earthquake.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry said on Wednesday his administration would try not to “repeat history about mismanagement and aid coordination,” a reference to the country’s devastating earthquake in 2010, when the government and the International partners have struggled to get aid to the needy amidst the spread of destruction and misery.

Henry said Saturday’s earthquake left the country “on its knees.”

Meanwhile, the Core Group, a coalition of key international diplomats from the United States and other countries who monitor Haiti, said in a statement that its members are “resolutely committed to working alongside national and local authorities to ensure that affected people and areas receive adequate assistance. as soon as possible “.

While some officials suggested ending the search phase so that heavy machinery could clear the rubble, Henry did not seem willing to take this step.

“Some of our fellow citizens are still under the rubble. We have teams of foreigners and Haitians working there, ”he said.

He also called for unity.

“We must come together to rebuild Haiti,” said Henry. “The country is physically and mentally destroyed.


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