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Haiti insecurity mounts as survivors plagued by bandits

Haiti insecurity mounts as survivors plagued by bandits

Haiti's vulnerable quake victims faced rising insecurity Thursday with criminals raping women in camps and violence erupting during handouts of sparse foreign aid, officials warned.
But a ray of hope penetrated the gloom as doctors marveled at how a 16-year-old girl who was pulled from the rubble of the capital a day earlier managed to survive 15 days buried alive without any food or water.
With aid still only trickling in despite a vast international relief effort launched after the Jan. 12 quake, hundreds of thousands of homeless people in tent camps are not only short of food but also at risk from rising crime.
"Only Jesus Christ is watching over us," said Mariana Merise, 40, who lives in a camp by the crumpled National Palace that residents said was plagued by gangs stealing their meager possessions.
Because of the lack of electricity in Port-au-Prince, "bandits are taking advantage to harass and rape women and young girls under the tents," national police chief Mario Andresol said.
Thousands of prisoners who escaped from the main jail on the night of the 7.0-magnitude quake are "running wild" and the police force is stretched to cope as hundreds of its members were dead or missing, he said.
The deputy head of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Anthony Banbury, told reporter that desperate survivors waiting in line for aid were sometimes turning violent.
While the influx of aid was vital after the quake, which killed around 170,000 people, "at the same it can be a source of insecurity because it attracts big crowds and there can be disorder around food distribution."
Speaking in Jacmel, a ruined resort town outside Port-au-Prince, Banbury said it was "absolutely necessary that we get enough food, enough water, enough shelter for the people, and enough security."
"I don't think any of us are anywhere near being close to being satisfied, because so much more needs to be done," he added.
In a symbol of Haitian resilience, rescuers said quake survivor Darlene Etienne was severely dehydrated but stable on board a French hospital ship after rescuers dragged her from under a collapsed house on Wednesday.
"I am incapable of explaining it medically, but she told me this morning that she didn't eat anything, didn't drink anything," said Evelyne Lambert, the chief doctor on the Siroco, which is docked off Haiti's coast.
Neighbors alerted rescuers after hearing her cries. Doctors feared her heart might stop because she was so weakened by her ordeal, the longest of any Haitian survivor so far.
"To my knowledge, she is one of the most extreme cases of survival," added Colonel Michel Orcel, who runs the French field hospital in Port-au-Prince.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, former U.S. president Bill Clinton made an emotional speech to global political and business leaders urging them to help the poorest nation in the Americas "rise from the ashes."
"They need to be helped through this hideous natural disaster," said Clinton, a U.N. special envoy for Haiti, as he kicked off an initiative to get private sector help for the country.
International aid pledges and funding for Haiti topped two billion dollars on Thursday, the United Nations said, but the task of getting the country back on its feet remains huge.


Updated : 2021-01-23 01:23 GMT+08:00