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Gangs block roads in Haiti, paralyzing the delivery of humanitarian aid

Photo: Odelyn Joseph Associated Press People line up to receive food on Thursday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Some 1.4 million Haitians are on the brink of famine, and more than 4 million are in need of food aid, sometimes eating only once a day or not at all, according to humanitarian groups .

Evens Sanon – Associated Press and Danica Coto – Associated Press respectively in Port-au-Prince and in San Juan

9:36 p.m.

  • Americas

A crowd of around 100 people tried to break through a metal gate in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as a guard armed with a baton pushed them back, threatening to beat them. Undeterred, children and adults, some carrying babies, kept nudging each other to try to get in.

“Let us in!” We are hungry ! », they shouted in the afternoon.

They were trying to find makeshift shelter in an abandoned school. Inside, workers distributed soup and rice to Haitians who lost their homes to gang violence.

Some 1.4 million Haitians are on the brink of famine, and more than 4 million of them are in need of food aid, sometimes eating only once a day or not at all at all, according to humanitarian groups.

“Haiti is facing a prolonged and massive famine,” Jean-Martin Bauer, director of the United Nations World Food Program for Haiti, told the Associated Press. He noted that Croix-des-Bouquets, a district of the Haitian capital, “has malnutrition rates comparable to those of any war zone in the world.”

Authorities are trying to quickly get food, water and medical supplies to makeshift shelters and other locations as gang violence rages in Port-au-Prince.

Only a few humanitarian organizations have been able to restart since February 29, when gangs began attacking key institutions, burning police stations, forcing the closure of the main international airport and storming two prisons, freeing more than 4,000 detainees.

The violence forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign once a transitional council was created, but gangs continued their attacks in several communities.

Mr. Bauer and other officials said the gangs were blocking distribution routes and paralyzing the main port. The World Food Program warehouse is running out of grains, beans and vegetable oil as it continued to deliver meals.

“We have supplies for weeks. I say weeks, not months, Bauer warned. This terrifies me. »

Inside the school, which serves as a makeshift shelter, the scene was a little calmer. Dozens of people were lined up to get food. More than 3,700 shelter residents compete for a place to sleep and share a hole in the ground as a toilet.

It is estimated that more than 200 gangs operate in Haiti, with nearly twenty concentrated in and around Port-au-Prince. They now control 80% of the capital and are seeking more territory.

Many people died in the most recent attacks and more than 15,000 people were left homeless.

Food for the Hungry runs a cash program that helps some 25,000 families a year by sending them money, but Boby Sander, the organization's director, said the ongoing looting and bank attacks have paralyzed the system. “Since February 29, we haven’t been able to do anything at all,” he lamented.

On a recent morning, the smell of cooking rice attracted a group of adults and teenagers to a sidewalk near a building where aid workers were preparing meals to distribute to shelters elsewhere in the city.

“Can you help me get a plate of food ? We haven’t eaten anything yet today,” they asked people entering and leaving the building. But their requests went unanswered. The food was intended for the school shelter.

“We know it’s not a lot,” said Jean Emmanuel Joseph, who oversees food distribution for the Center for Peasant Organization and Community Action. “It’s a shame we can’t give them more. »

At the shelter, some adults and children tried to wait in line for a second helping. “You already had a plate,” they were told. Let others have one. »

The U.S. Agency for International Development said about 5.5 million people in Haiti, nearly half the population, need humanitarian aid and pledged 25 million dollars on top of the $33 million announced earlier this week.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116