UN: Tens of thousands await help 1 month after Haiti quake

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tens of thousands of Haitians are still awaiting help more than a month after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s southern region, a U.N. official said Thursday.

Bruno Lemarquis, resident and humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said the country’s precarious political situation and the control that gangs have of key roads leading to the affected area are complicating efforts.

“It’s piling up,” he said. “Many of the urgent humanitarian needs are still not being met.”

Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency has estimated that only 46% of people in need have received some kind of humanitarian help, largely because remote communities were the most affected. The Aug. 14 earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed or damaged more than 137,500 homes and some 900 schools.

In a press conference earlier this week, the agency said that nearly 83,000 families were affected, but that only some 25,900 have received food rations and another 34,500 non-food items.

Lemarquis echoed those concerns on Thursday, saying that the aid has so far been distributed to towns and cities accessible by road.

“There is a challenge of reaching the last mile,” he said.

Lemarquis said the U.S. military as of last week was doing air distribution on top of hills but that the operation has since ceased. He noted that the quake also caused more than 1,000 landslides, which affected crops and livestock.

In addition, officials say more than 200,000 people have lost access to safe drinking water services.

The United Nations is seeking $187 million to help those affected and has warned that nearly 1 million people will face acute food insecurity in upcoming months.