Haiti hurricane victims lose hope of receiving aid

Les Cayes (Haiti) (AFP) - It's been two weeks since Hurricane Matthew devastated southern Haiti, but large parts of the impoverished country's third-largest city of Les Cayes remain a wasteland and many residents have stopped expecting to receive any help.

A coconut tree fell on Yolette Cazenor's small home in the storm's aftermath. A similar fate befell her neighbor Michel Donald. So far, a few pieces of sheet metal is all they have to rebuild.

"The sheet metal is to provide shade during the day," Donald explained.

"Inside, we have a tarp as a ceiling and buckets on the bed" to catch rainwater, the 22-year-old said, adding that sleep has been elusive.

At least 546 people were killed and more than 175,000 people lost their homes when Matthew roared ashore on October 4, packing winds of 145 miles (230 kilometers) per hour.

The UN estimates at least 1.4 million people need urgent assistance.

UN officials have expressed concern about looting attacks on aid trucks, which have been slow to reach the hardest-hit areas.

It's been two weeks of struggle for the victims in Les Cayes -- downpours every evening force them to scramble to protect the few belongings they salvaged, which they dry in the sunshine before the rains come again.

Cazenor's husband works alone with a machete to cut off the branches of a large toppled mango tree.

Although trucks from neighboring Dominican Republic are removing branches and other rubble piled on the main streets in the city center, none has come to their neighborhood.

- 'Nothing ever happens' -

On the porch of an undamaged home built of concrete, Ketia Jeannejuste sips a very sweet coffee and wonders why aid has not arrived.

She is now living with her mother in Les Cayes, but was leading a quiet country life in a small town 10 kilometers (six miles) away, where she raised livestock and grew vegetables. Matthew destroyed everything she owned.

"I know a lot of things have been delivered to Les Cayes but we haven't received anything," the 25-year-old said. "I want to know why. Are the local authorities just keeping it all for themselves?"

Emeline Damien, 43, crossed the still rain-soaked street to vent her frustrations.

"It's those who aren't victims who are getting the help, but the most vulnerable haven't gotten anything," she raged.

"And you know, we are having elections soon, everything is politicized right now in the country but politics is always just words -- nothing ever happens on the ground."

Haiti had been due to hold presidential and legislative elections on October 9, but they had to be pushed back to November 20 because of Matthew's devastation.

"The people of Port-au-Prince should come and see the damage: Haiti it is not just Port-au-Prince," Damien said.

"They should take this disaster seriously because, in a few days, they will see the importance of the south when they aren't able to find bananas, mangos or lemons. Then they will understand what a high cost of living means," she said.

Jeannejuste agreed with her impassioned neighbor but she won't be able to make her voice heard in the upcoming election: Matthew destroyed her voter card.