Protests, frustrations erupt as Haiti earthquake aid hits bottlenecks

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger turned to anger in Haiti’s capital on Wednesday as hundreds of protesters marched through the streets accusing local officials of demanding bribes for donated food.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger turned to anger in Haiti’s capital on Wednesday as hundreds of protesters marched through the streets accusing local officials of demanding bribes for donated food.

Aid workers say that food and other supplies are now flowing into the country three weeks after the Jan. 12 quake, but red tape, fear of ambush, transportation bottlenecks and corruption are keeping it from many people who need it.

Hungry protesters jogged along a broad avenue in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville waving branches and chanting, “They stole the rice! They stole the rice!”

One of the protesters, 17-year-old Danka Tanzil, said a local official was demanding a bribe in return for coupons that entitle people to bags of donated food from the U.N. World Food Program. “For us to get the coupon, we must give 50 Haitian dollars (US$7) so we can get the rice,” she complained.

People at small protests elsewhere had a simpler message, holding up banners reading, in English: “Help us, We’re starving.”

The World Food Program began distributing the coupons to bring order to the aid distribution and prevent strong young men from forcing themselves to the front of food lines. Aid officials say it has largely worked, despite scattered reports of abuses.

The U.N. agency “is aware of reports that our coupons have been resold, and we’ve also heard allegations of forgeries,” WFP spokeswoman Jennifer Parmelee said. “However, all evidence from our co-operating partners who are managing the distributions … is that this is not a widespread issue.”

The agency said it has reached more than 300,000 people through the coupon program but needs to reach 2 million.

In other key developments:

— U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton to expand his role as special envoy for Haiti by taking a stronger role in co-ordinating relief and reconstruction efforts.

— Haiti’s Ministry of Health, backed by the U.N. and other agencies, began a campaign to give vaccinations against key diseases to 250,000 children under age 7 living in temporary settlements. It said 200,000 other injured people will get tetanus vaccines.

— Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade told Radio France International that dozens of Haitians have asked about taking advantage of his offer of free land for Haitians who want to “return to their origins” in Africa following the earthquake.

———

Associated Press Writers Martha Mendoza and John Rice in Mexico City and Todd Pittman in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bloc Québécois MP Sebastien Lemire rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 12, 2021. A Bloc Québécois MP has apologized for taking a screen shot of a Liberal MP who inadvertently appeared nude during virtual proceedings in the House of Commons last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bloc Québécois MP apologizes for taking nude photo of Liberal MP William Amos

‘I have no idea how that photo made its way into the media’

FILE - This Sunday, June 25, 2017, file photo shows TK Holdings Inc. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. A driver in South Carolina is the latest person to be killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator. Honda says that a faulty driver’s air bag blew apart in a crash involving a 2002 Honda Accord in Lancaster County, South Carolina. The company wouldn’t give details of the Jan. 9, 2021, crash near Charlotte, North Carolina, nor would it identify the person who was killed. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
South Carolina driver killed by exploding air bag inflator

Drivers can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled

Hospital staff shift the body of a COVID-19 patient on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance at a specialized COVID-19 hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Low on beds, oxygen, India adds global high 314K virus cases

Government rushing oxygen tankers to replenish hospital supplies

A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charles Krupa
JetBlue expanding wings with service to Vancouver from New York and Boston

JetBlue will have to compete with Canadian airlines

Green Party MP Elizabeth May arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. An emergency parliamentary debate that was supposed to be a forum for cross-party collaboration on better ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic has devolved into another round of partisan finger-pointing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emergency parliamentary debate on pandemic devolves into partisan finger-pointing

‘Let’s work together instead of playing terrible politics in this debate’

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Linda Tomlinson
Gardening: Leave the lawn until the soil is dry

Spring is arriving, Alberta style with warm days, cold days and snow.… Continue reading

Silent protests were held recently in response to Red Deer Public Schools’ decision to reject a Pride Week in favour of a Diversity Week. Some former employees at Red Deer Public are saying the decision is misguided. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Letter: School board silencing Pride Week concern

While it has been our practice to not comment on matters arising… Continue reading

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse (5) shoots next to Indiana Fever's Kamiah Smalls during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. Nurse isn't just one of Canada's finest female basketball players, she's becoming a popular voice of the game as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Most Read