Desperate quake-hit Haitians swarm food relief trucks

Hungry and homeless Haitians hit by a devastating earthquake swarmed relief trucks and stole desperately needed goods on Friday (August 20). Attacks on relief shipments reveal the sheer frustration of those left homeless after the August 14 magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which killed 2,200 people, injured more than 12,000 and destroyed and damaged 100,000 homes. In the small port city of Les Cayes people were witnessed stealing foam sleeping pads from a truck parked at a Red Cross compound.

Others stole food slated for distribution, said Jean-Michel Saba, an official with the country's civil protection agency. Police managed to safely escort the food truck away, Mr Saba said. He did not say how much was taken.

Residents crowd in front of a truck loaded with relief supplies in Vye Terre

People also stole tarpaulins from a truck in a community outside Les Cayes.

Similar thefts appeared to take place in the small town of Vye Terre near Les Cayes, where a group of men were witnessed pulling large sacks from a half-opened container truck. People then grabbed the sacks and rushed off amid fighting.

Desperate quake-hit Haitians swarm food relief trucksMen scuffle over a sack of donated food taken from a truck loaded with relief supplies, in Vye Terre, Haiti

The frustration over the pace of aid has been rising for days and has been illustrated by the growing number of people crowding together at aid distribution sites. But Friday was the first time there was such widespread stealing.

The quake wiped out many of the sources of food and income that the poor depend on for survival in Haiti, which is already struggling with the coronavirus and gang violence. Prime Minister Ariel Henry this week said his administration would work to not "repeat history on the mismanagement and coordination of aid", a reference to the chaos that followed the country's devastating 2010 earthquake, when the government was accused of not funnelling all of the money raised by donors to the people who needed it.

Desperate quake-hit Haitians swarm food relief trucksA resident crawls away with a donated bag of rice after residents temporarily overtook a truck loaded with relief supplies

Pressure for coordinated aid efforts mounted this week as more bodies were pulled from the rubble and the injured continued to arrive from remote areas in search of medical care. International aid workers on the ground said hospitals in the areas worst hit by the quake are mostly incapacitated and that there is a desperate need for medical equipment.

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