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Jason O'Brien: Some victims are left behind in Haiti chaos

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A boy eats as he sit on his merchandise at the ruins of Petion Ville market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday. But while food and supplies have reached the capital, survivors in towns nearby are desperately waiting for help to arrive

A boy eats as he sit on his merchandise at the ruins of Petion Ville market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday. But while food and supplies have reached the capital, survivors in towns nearby are desperately waiting for help to arrive

A boy eats as he sit on his merchandise at the ruins of Petion Ville market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, yesterday. But while food and supplies have reached the capital, survivors in towns nearby are desperately waiting for help to arrive

TWO weeks on, and the whole world knows about Haiti and the devastation wreaked upon Port-au-Prince.

But not too many have heard about Gressier, a seaside city about 35km south of the capital. Not even, it seems, the Haitian government.

"This is a letter dated January 23 from the Ministry of Agriculture confirming that Gressier was not initially on the list of communities affected," the region's mayor, Paul Jean Michelet, said yesterday.

Yet Gressier is just a few kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake.

"So we weren't on the list until 11 days after the quake," Mr Michelet said. "And we still haven't received any food or supplies, or been given the date when we will."

With palm tree-lined beaches facing onto the Caribbean sea, the city was a very popular tourist destination, and had a population of almost 60,000.

An estimated 1,000 died in the quake. Tens of thousands are now homeless. The hotels and resorts are, of course, all closed. In fact, most of them were demolished.

"Now it is a dead city," Mr Michelet said. But worse may be to come.

The residents of one of the worst affected areas -- Santo -- grew tired of waiting for help yesterday morning, and put out an international SOS.

Some of them blocked the national road that runs through their area and links the capital to the picturesque town Leogane, another 20km down the road.

Up to 90pc of Leogane was levelled, and there are Canadian, Japanese and Argentinean field hospitals set up there. A number of NGOs are also on the ground helping the 190,000 residents, virtually all of whom are homeless.

"We know that the world is watching Haiti after the quake, but nobody is taking any notice of us in Santo," Ismanie Goudin (31), a mother of three living in a makeshift tent, said.

"We see the supply trucks and the white jeeps (carrying NGO staff) going to Port-au-Prince and to Leogane, but they never come to us.

"We have stopped them before, but they told us the food was for a designated area. But we will stop them again. We need someone to notice us."

Ms Goudin was mixing sugar with corn and water to feed her children. The water was dirty. They have had one meal a day since the quake.

The mayor said he couldn't condone the stopping of traffic on the road -- which created lengthy tailbacks yesterday -- but he didn't condemn it either.

"They should take care of us, too," he said, adding that he was reluctant to get the police involved when his people were just trying to get some help.

He also confirmed that Gressier had received water -- "but not enough" -- from an NGO three days ago, but there has been no food or medical supplies delivered.

Children in the camp in Santo repeatedly mimicked putting food in their mouths as their parents were interviewed about. "Take me with you," one said, managing a huge smile.

Unsurprisingly, few of around 400,000 who have left the capital to return to their ancestral homes in the countryside on the advice of the government settled here.

There was just one young woman who fell into that category in the Santo camp, which houses over 250 people. She was mixing leaves with potatoes for her meal.

Worryingly, there are other signs that social order may be on the brink in Santo. A 14-year-old girl was raped on the side of the road late on Monday night, near a temporary settlement of 30 families.

"Girls are more vulnerable in disaster and crisis situations," Plan International's disaster response expert Dr Unni Krishnan had said. "Disasters fast-track their misery and health problems. Girls are also more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

"No words can describe the real plight of girls in camp situations."

The mayor of Gressier said that the local prison was among the buildings destroyed in the quake, and that he would be talking with community leaders on how to increase security.

Of course, a fortnight has passed since the quake.

Gressier, a town of 59,000 inhabitants, is in danger of slipping through the cracks. In fact, it already has.

Irish Independent