Haitians left hungry and homeless by a devastating earthquake swarmed relief trucks and in some cases stole desperately needed goods on Friday as political leaders struggled to avoid a repeat of their chaotic response to a similar tragedy 11 years ago.
The attacks on relief shipments illustrate the rising frustration of those left homeless after the August 14 magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which killed nearly 2,200 people, injured more than 12,000 and destroyed or damaged more than 100,000 homes.
“I have been here since yesterday, not able to do anything,” said 23-year-old Sophonie Numa, who waited outside an international aid distribution site in the small city of Camp-Perrin, located in the hard-hit south-western Les Cayes region.
“I have other people waiting for me to come back with something.”
Ms Numa said her home was destroyed in the quake and that her sister broke her leg during the temblor.
In the small port city of Les Cayes, an AP photographer saw people stealing foam sleeping pads from a truck parked at a Red Cross compound. Others stole food slated for distribution, said Jean-Michel Saba, an official with the country’s civil protection agency.
Police managed to safely escort the food truck away, Mr Saba said. He did not say how much was taken. People also stole tarpaulins from a truck in a community outside Les Cayes.
Similar thefts appeared to take place in the small town of Vye Terre near Les Cayes, where a second AP photographer witnessed a group of men pulling large sacks from a half-opened container truck. People then grabbed the sacks and rushed off.
The frustration over the pace of aid has been rising for days and has been illustrated by the growing number of people crowding together at aid distribution sites. But Friday was the first time there was such widespread stealing.
The quake wiped out many of the sources of food and income that the poor depend on for survival in Haiti, which is already struggling with the coronavirus, gang violence and the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry this week said his administration would work to not “repeat history on the mismanagement and coordination of aid”, a reference to the chaos that followed the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake, when the government was accused of not funnelling all of the money raised by donors to the people who needed it.
Pressure for coordinated aid efforts mounted this week as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the injured continued to arrive from remote areas in search of medical care.
International aid workers on the ground said hospitals in the areas worst hit by the quake are mostly incapacitated and that there is a desperate need for medical equipment.