Haitians angry over slow aid
CLARENS RENOIS, PORT-AU-PRINCEFebruary 5, 2010
PROTESTS over the slow arrival of aid have flared in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince as Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive put the earthquake death toll at more than 200,000.
More than three weeks after the 7.0-magnitude quake, Mr Bellerive said 300,000 injured had been treated, 250,000 homes had been destroyed and 30,000 businesses lost.
After a tense night when shots were fired in the ruined capital, about 300 people gathered outside the mayor's office in the once-upscale Petionville neighbourhood on Wednesday.
''If the police fire on us, we are going to set things ablaze,'' shouted one protester, raising a cement block above his head.
Another 200 protesters marched to the US embassy, crying out for food and aid, while about 50 demonstrators gathered outside the police headquarters where the government of President Rene Preval is temporarily installed.
''Down with Preval,'' demonstrators shouted at the President, who has spoken to the people only a few times since the disaster.
Amid the mounting frustration, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named former US president Bill Clinton as international co-ordinator for humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti.
Mr Clinton's appointment came as his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticised the alleged attempt by 10 detained US Baptist missionaries to take children out of the country.
Parents in the nearby village of Callebas claim they willingly handed their children to the missionaries who showed up in a bus promising to give them a better life - contradicting claims by the Baptist group's leader that the children came from orphanages and distant relatives.
The parents said they had surrendered their children on January 28, two days after a local orphanage worker acting on behalf of the missionaries convened nearly the entire village of about 500 people on a dirt soccer pitch to present the offer.
The orphanage worker, Issac Adrien, said he had told the villagers their children would be educated at a home in the Dominican Republic so they might eventually return to take care of their families.
''It's only because the bus was full that more children didn't go,'' said Melanie Augustin, 58, who gave her 10-year-old daughter, Jovin, to the missionaries. Ironically, Ms Augustin had adopted Jovin because her birth parents could not afford to care for her.
Mr Adrien said he had met the missionaries' leader, Laura Silsby, at a school in Port-au-Prince where she had been looking for homeless children.
Ms Silsby's Baptist church in Meridian, Idaho, had begun planning last year to build an orphanage, school and church in the Dominican Republic. Their plan was to work with US adoption agencies. After the quake struck, the church members decided to act immediately.