Haiti earthquake: Angry crowds bemoan lack of government response
Haiti's President René Préval Preval and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will issue a joint communiqué on Sunday laying out plans for delivering emergency aid, but many Haitians are denouncing the lack of government response to the crisis.
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In the middle of Port-au-Prince, hanging on a white sheet, someone wrote: “We need aid for the victims. We need food and water.” Another wrote on wood outside a damaged structure: “Welcome the US Marines. Dead bodies inside.”Skip to next paragraph
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Even before the earthquake struck last Tuesday evening, Haiti faced a slew of problems. The poorest nation in the western hemisphere, more than half the population lives on less than a $1 a day and almost as many don't have sustainable access to potable water.
The damage was so complete, too, that just as the police force has been depleted, so too have other service providers.
At the general hospital, only one nurse, Georgette Sergilles, who says she is in training, was on duty in a make-shift clinic in a field where dozens of patients laid, many moaning in pain. She says she cannot even tend to their bathroom needs. “I am all alone,” she says.
Nearby, the side of a street has turned into a temporary morgue, dead bodies piled on the ground.
“They have nothing here, no infrastructure, no support,” says Francisco Morales, a Spanish firefighter working at the recovery scene of a hotel. “They are too poor.”
But many say the earthquake has been made more tragic by government unpreparedness.
“Geologists knew we were sitting on top of a fault, and what did the government do? Nothing,” says Frednel Isma, a consultant in Port-au-Prince who says that he tried to rally friends and relatives to distribute water in the first two days when no relief efforts were anywhere to be seen.
“You are on your own here,” says Ronald, a car salesman who does not want to give his last name but is critical of the current government. “Every year there is a disaster in Haiti, and we have no rescue teams or plan.”
Others were more forgiving.
“They are not doing anything,” says resident Manuel Michel, standing in line for water. “But they cannot afford to help.”
In the meantime, as international teams take charge of recovery efforts, relief aid has been slow to be distributed, and a sense of desperation has begun to mark the mood, especially in the most overcrowded settlements.
They say just handing it out without a strategy for how to contain expected mob violence would be too dangerous for the staff.
Says volunteer Antoinne Guerby: “We are figuring out a plan.”