Monday 20 November 2017

Buses roll and cash returns but struggle for food goes on

Patrick Markey and Matthew Bigg in Port-au-Prince

Cash became available and buses started running in Haiti's rubble-clogged capital yesterday but there was still not enough food to feed desperate earthquake survivors.

"We can do this 24 hours a day for the next six months and we still won't meet the need," said first sergeant Rob Farnsworth, part of a US army airborne unit handing out food packs at a squalid camp where survivors lived in the open air.

Up to 1.5 million Haitians lost their homes in the earthquake on January 12 that rocked the small Caribbean country, devastated its capital Port-au-Prince and killed up to 200,000 people.

But now there are signs of daily life resuming.

Tap-taps, Haiti's small, colourfully decorated private buses, began to circulate in Port-au-Prince yesterday, sharing streets with the earth-movers and digging machines clearing debris.

Banks were scheduled to reopen today and money transfer agencies did brisk business.

Hundreds of people jostled for position outside a Unitransfer office that opened yesterday.

"I want to get some cash sent by my family from Canada. It's $500 (€334) but it's difficult. There are so many people," said businessman Aslyn Denis (31), waiting in the long line.

The World Food Program distributed 1.2 million food rations to hospitals and orphanages on Thursday and hoped to give out 10 million in the next week.

But nearly 1,000 hungry people swarmed around a US military truck as an 82nd Airborne company known as "the Beast" handed out food and water at an encampment on a soccer field. Overwhelmed, the troops pulled out after distributing 600 packaged meals, leaving 250 food packs still on the truck.

A large supermarket, Big Star Market, reopened in the Petionville suburb on Friday, selling everything from slabs of ham and goat meat to Valentine's Day chocolates.

The store manager said they had only a week or two of stocks left and had received no deliveries.

"It's difficult because everyone is nervous of being inside, people can only pay with cash or check, it's not easy," she said.

Irish Independent

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