LEOGANE, Haiti -- The political turmoil and protests in Haiti linked to 17 deaths are hitting cities and towns outside the capital of Port-au-Prince especially hard, forcing nongovernment organizations to suspend aid.
"We are starving," said Gabriel Duvalesse, 28, who has struggled to find work. "I had to make $2 last one week."
His first job in seven days was pushing an old wheelbarrow carrying 50 gallons of cooking oil to an outdoors market an hour away. The job paid $1.
Opposition leaders and thousands of supporters are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise amid anger over government corruption, ballooning inflation and scarcity of fuel and other basic goods.
In addition to the deaths, nearly 200 people have been injured in the protests. Barricades of rocks and burning tires have cut off the flow of goods between the city and the countryside.
The crisis is deepening poverty in places such as Leogane, the epicenter of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.
The United Nations said that before the protests even began, some 2.6 million people across Haiti were vulnerable to food shortages. On Sept. 16, the World Food Program was forced to suspend all food deliveries to schools as demonstrations started.
Meanwhile, cash transfers to some 37,000 people in need were postponed.
U.N. officials also said that private transporters are reluctant to deliver goods given the security situation, a problem that Vangly Germeille knows well.
He owns a Leogane wholesale company that sells items including rice, soap, cooking oil and cereal to small markets. But his warehouse is nearly empty, and he is struggling to find truck drivers willing to go to markets to deliver the goods because of thieves and barricades.
"It's an enormous economic loss," said Germeille, a father of two who is thinking of moving to the Dominican Republic if things don't improve soon. "If there's no way to make a living here, I can't stay."
Rice, coconuts, milk and diapers are among the dozens of goods that people in this coastal community of more than 200,000 inhabitants say are hard to find since the protests began in mid-September.
On Saturday, a grocery store near the town's center opened briefly to sell rice, said Sony Raymond, an information technology engineer.
"In less than three hours it was gone," said Raymond, 40. "Leogane is basically paralyzed."
Security concerns grew on Sunday after onlookers said they saw two men fatally shoot a third to steal his bicycle in Leogane.
The crowd then went after the two men with machetes, dragging one of them through the street while witnesses said the other committed suicide. All three bodies still lay on the street hours after it happened, with one ambulance from the health department passing by without stopping.
The protests and barricades are increasingly isolating already struggling communities across Haiti, including those like Barriere Jeudi, where amateur bull fights on weekends provide some distraction from people's financial problems.
Bruinel Jean-Louis, who repairs refrigerators and stoves, said he hasn't been able to find much work because he can't travel to find the parts he needs.
"It takes a very long time, and that also makes me suffer," he said.
Haitian economist Kesner Pharel noted that Haiti is a country of nearly 11 million people where 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% make less than $1 a day. He said the problem is worsening now that food is not going to Haiti's capital nor manufactured goods to rural areas, causing a stoppage to the economy.
The situation angers Carolle Bercy, 62, who moved back to Haiti last year after working in financial services for 30 years in Connecticut, both in Stanford and Bridgeport.
She said she has seen people fighting over fuel on the rare instances that a gas station opens, and she worries about the future of Haitians.
"It's unbelievable," she said. "No country on earth should go through what Haitian people are going through."
A Section on 10/07/2019
Print Headline: Protests choke food supply to starving Haitians