Haiti's Storm Refugees Want To Know: What's The Plan? | KERA News

Haiti's Storm Refugees Want To Know: What's The Plan?

Oct 7, 2016
Originally published on October 17, 2016 6:19 pm

In Haiti hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Matthew are still waiting for aid.

The death toll is in the hundreds and is expected to rise. The Haitian president calls the situation in the southwest a catastrophe.

At the Lycee Philip Garrier, a high school in the hard-hit town of Les Cayes that's serving as a shelter, there's growing frustration among people who lost everything to the storm.

Hundreds of people took shelter in the school, sleeping on classroom floors. Most say they now have nowhere else to go.

"This is a school. And we know that we cannot stay here forever. But so far no one has come here to talk to us, to tell us what they plan to do with us," says Jacqueline Emile, who's been at the school since Sunday.

"We know that it's nonsense to think by next week, we should stay here. There are the students who head back to school! So we want anyone with the means to help us to come and talk to us and help us have a relief from the situation that we're exposed to now."

Laundry is strung on all the balconies of the two-story school building. Kids play soccer on the basketball court. The parking area near the entrance smells strongly of urine.

Across town, a crowd has gathered around a truck that people have heard might be loaded with food aid. Young muscled men shove the crowd away from the vehicle.

People are trying to get on with their lives in this town of some 80,000 residents. Amid the felled power lines and destroyed buildings, street vendors have gone back to selling mangoes and fried plantains. Stores have reopened.

Despite this attempt to get life back to normal, aid agencies say the needs are huge. Hundreds of thousands of people had their homes partially or totally destroyed. Crops have been wiped out.

At the main public hospital in Les Cayes, Dr. Lance Plyler from the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse is bandaging a 3-year-old boy's broken ankle. Plyler had just stopped by the hospital. There was no one to attend to the boy so the doctor ended up bandaging the boy's leg in the parking lot between two cars.

"This kid's got a broken and infected leg," he says. "We're just putting a Band-Aid on a big problem, but we're hoping to arrest the infection enough that he'll be OK."

The 156-bed hospital is struggling to reopen. On Friday it could take only 10 patients. Most of the staff who made it to work were busy trying to clear debris from the compound and mop mud out of the wards.

Gilbert Lorcy is one of the relatively lucky ones: He didn't completely lose his roof. His tin roof and the wooden rafters did blow off in the Category 4 hurricane but with the help of a few folks, he was able to pick it back up and prop it up on what's left of his foundation — four low stone walls.

During the day Lorcy and his family of five camp out under the roof. At night they go to sleep in a shelter. His neighbor next door is doing the same thing.

"As of now we have nothing to cope with the situation," says Lorcy. "So we spend a day in our yard. But every night we go in the shelter. Later on we'll have to find a way to address a proper living."

Lorcy says he doesn't have a plan. He has no money to rebuild. He hopes the government or aid groups will provide building materials so he can reconstruct his house.

A neighbor worries that if aid does arrive, it won't go to people like Lorcy.

Haitians have far too much experience as aid recipients. These men worry that the relief will go to people who are better connected, better off or stronger than they are.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The hurricane left hundreds of people dead in Haiti, and the president there is calling the situation in the southwest of his country a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands lost homes or crops. Many lost everything. Survivors are growing frustrated. They're worried they may not get any help. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from the port city of Les Cayes.

(CROSSTALK)

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: We're in a high school in Les Cayes right now, and this is one of the places that was designated as a shelter before the storm. And a lot of these people moved in before. Some people came right after the storm actually hit. And right now, it is packed with people. There's laundry hanging from every spare space of balcony along here.

And the other thing is that people are incredibly frustrated. People don't know when they're going to be able to move back into their homes. A lot of people are injured. There are a lot of people right in front of me with bandages on their head, on their arms, people with gashes on their feet.

Across town, a large crowd has gathered around a truck that people heard might be loaded with food aid. Young muscled man shoved the crowd away from the vehicle. People are trying to get on with their lives here. Amidst the felled power lines and destroyed buildings, street vendors have gone back to selling mangoes and fried plantains. Stores have reopened.

Despite this attempt towards normalcy, aid agencies say the needs here are huge. Hundreds of thousands of people had their homes partially or totally destroyed. Crops have been wiped out.

LANCE PLYLER: Let's use this. Let's use this.

BEAUBIEN: At the main public hospital in Les Cayes, Dr. Lance Plyler from the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse today was bandaging a 3-year-old boy's broken ankle. Dr. Plyler had just stopped by the hospital. There was no one to attend to the boy, so he ended up bandaging the boy's leg in the parking lot between two cars.

PLYLER: This kid's got a broken and infect leg. We're just putting a Band-Aid on a big problem, but we're trying to hopefully just, you know, arrest the infection enough that he'll be OK.

BEAUBIEN: This hospital is still struggling to reopen. The 156-bed facility today could only take 10 patients. Most of the staff who could make it to work were busy trying to clear debris from the compound and mop mud out of the wards. Gilbert Lorcy is one of the people who didn't lose his roof. His tin roof and wouldn't rafters blew off in the Category 4 hurricane. They were able to pick it back up, however, and prop it up on what was left of his stone walls. During the day, Lorcy and his family of five camp out under it. Then, at night, they go to sleep in a shelter. His neighbor next door is doing the same thing.

GILBERT LORCY: (Through interpreter) As now, we have nothing to cope with the situation. So we spend the day in our yard. But every night, we go in a shelter. For two or three days, we believe that they will host us. But later on, we'll have, like, to find, like, a way to address a proper living.

BEAUBIEN: Lorcy says he doesn't have a plan. He has no money to rebuild, but he also doesn't have anywhere else to go. He hopes the government or aid groups will provide building materials so that he can reconstruct his house. His neighbor worries that if aid does arrive, it won't go to people like Lorcy. Haitians have far too much experience as aid recipients. These men worry that the relief will go to people who are better connected, better off or stronger than they are. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Les Cayes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.