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Who Can Haitians Trust To Deliver Hurricane Aid?

The rice fields below the village of Banatte.
Jason Beaubien
The rice fields below the village of Banatte.

Who's in charge of the aid?

That's the question in the hurricane-ravaged southwest of Haiti.

Should politicians hand it out? Or aid groups? Or religious leaders?

Pastor Louis Masil, who lives in the tiny village of Banatte, doesn't think the government should be in control.

"Since the independence of Haiti, the culture was always all governments, all officials only care for themselves," he says. "They only care for stealing the money and not helping the communities."

Pastor Louis Masil is trying to make the case that <em>his</em> village should be getting assistance even if the damage there wasn't the worst.
Jason Beaubien / NPR
Pastor Louis Masil is trying to make the case that his village should be getting assistance even if the damage there wasn't the worst.

In his village, on the outskirts of the seaport of Les Cayes, no politicians or aid officials have come to survey the damage.

Banatte wasn't leveled like some villages further to the west, although the hurricane took a toll. A lot of trees are down. Some buildings lost their roofs. The walls of some houses collapsed.

But in his bid for aid, Pastor Louis Masil casts the damage in apocalyptic terms.

"Banatte used to be one of the greenest area of Les Cayes. but the green Banatte is now brown," Masil says. Even though families are back working in the rice fields.

As he walks past the carcass of a single drowned cow he declares that most the livestock have been lost. Except there are pigs and sheep and goats tethered all over the village.

He says the church in his village collapsed, then concedes it was still under construction before the storm.

He's desperately trying to make the case that his village should be getting assistance even if the damage here wasn't the worst. That kind of lobbying is happening in lots of places in Southern Haiti right now.

Meanwhile, some people are taking matters into their own hands.

"Yesterday, Samaritan's Purse was on the road to deliver some survival kits to the people in the mountains, and they get ripped off," says Louis St. Germain, the vice governor of Les Cayes. He says that looters attacked the truck. "They took everything. It's terrible."

St. Germain says this shows why the local government should control aid distribution. It can deploy security forces to protect supplies.

Although he adds that the police are going to need reinforcements.

"The police stations are really, really overwhelmed by the situation," he says. "So yesterday we were talking to the director of the Haitian national police. He said he would send 60 more police officer to us, but it's not going to be enough."

Regardless of who's in charge, it could be weeks or months before aid is handed out, even to the hardest hit communities. And a lot of people are waiting for relief. The U.N. says 1.4 million Haitians need assistance in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

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Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
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