Reviews : Food convoy attacked in Haiti

Twenty armed men blocked a road and tried to hijack a convoy of food for earthquake victims, but were driven off by police gunfire, United Nations officials said on Tuesday as they warned of security problems in a still-desperate nation.

The attack on the convoy as it carried supplies from an airport in the southern town of Jeremie underscored the shaky safety in the streets that has added to Haitians' frustration at the slow pace of aid since the January 12 earthquake.


Most quake victims are still living outside in squalid tents of sheets and sticks and aid officials acknowledge they have not yet gotten food to the majority of those in need. Mobs have stolen food and looted goods from their neighbours in the camps, prompting many to band together or stay awake at night to prevent raids.

About 20 armed men blockaded a street Saturday and attacked a convoy carrying food from the airport in Jeremie, according to UN spokesperson Vicenzo Pugliese. UN and Haitian officers fired warning gunshots and the men fled the scene, Pugliese said. No injuries were reported and no one was hurt.

Haitian police have increased their own patrols and are accompanying UN police guarding aid distribution.
"The overall security situation across the country remains stable but potentially volatile," the UN mission said in a statement on Tuesday.

In Jacmel, also a southern city, 33 escaped prisoners were apprehended Sunday, the UN said. Many prisoners escaped when prisons collapsed.

While Haitians are still mourning friends and relatives, many still unburied, anger at the government's sluggish response to the quake is feeding political resentment.

About 40 protesters gathered outside the Haitian government's temporary headquarters, holding placards to demand pay for state workers.

Many who had jobs before the earthquake can't return to work because buildings have collapsed.

Hundreds more waited outside the migration agency Tuesday to renew their passports in the hope they can leave the country. Others, despairing of government help, paid men to excavate loved ones from the rubble.

Hundreds gathered Monday at a gravel pit in Titanyen where countless earthquake victims have been dumped, turning a remembrance ceremony for the dead into one of the first organised political rallies since the disaster.

Many denounced President Rene Preval and called for the return of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"Preval has done nothing for this country, nothing for the victims," said Jean Delcius, 54, who was bused to the memorial service by Aristide's development foundation. "We need someone new to take charge here. If it's not Aristide, then someone competent."

Critics were already blaming Preval for rising unemployment, corruption and greed. Then the earthquake struck, flattening most government buildings and turning the capital into an apocalyptic vision of broken concrete and twisted steel.
Preval has rarely been seen in public since, leaving Prime Minister Max Bellerive to defend the government's performance Tuesday as Haiti's Senate met in a prefabricated room at the police academy because its own building collapsed in the quake.

"Even the most advanced countries could not respond to this crisis," Bellerive said. "There is still a government, but we have no buildings. We have no equipment. We have no resources."

The government has asked all non-governmental aid groups in the country to start working with it to improve the often disjointed food distribution.

"It is true we are in need," said Senator Jean Joel Joseph. "But do not treat us like dogs... as if we are animals. We ask the prime minister to ask the foreigners to re-organise the way this aid is being distributed."

Source: iol.co.za

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