Thursday, January 6, 2011

Haiti cholera epidemic: Violent street protests continue for a third day

Aid workers complained that protests were again holding up relief operations in the troubled second city of Cap Haitien, while a top UN official said the demonstrations were being “orchestrated”.

Two local Haitians were killed in riots in Cap Haitien on Monday, one shot by a UN peacekeeper as protesters set a police station and vehicles ablaze and threatened to torch a UN compound.

A police source told AFP a third person was shot dead in fresh rioting in the city on Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t clear if the latest fatality was a UN peacekeeper, a member of the Haitian police, or a protester.

UN spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese could not confirm the fatality, but said UN workers had not been able to get to work on Wednesday because of the tensions in the city.

The Oxfam aid group confirmed the protests and said it was worried that the unrest could lead to a faster spread of the cholera that has already killed more than 1,100 people in the country.

“Roads are blocked with protesters and burning tires, and we physically can’t get to our work sites, especially with trucks carrying crucial supplies like soap, water tablets or rehydration salts,” said Julie Schindall, Oxfam spokeswoman in Haiti.

“We have told our staff, most of whom are Haitian and live in Cap-Haitien, to stay at home while our operations are suspended. The few international staffers have been told to stay at the office for now.”

The UN said that in one incident this week, a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse had been looted of 500 tonnes of food and burned.

Schindall said: “The violence is delaying our cholera response in Cap-Haitien. We’re obviously frustrated by it and worried for the people that desperately need clean water.”

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