By AMY BRACKEN
MAPOU, Haiti – Hundreds of children stood in line to receive biscuits as U.N. workers distributed an emergency aid shipment flown into this remote flood-stricken town by helicopter.
The crowd of children waiting for food Sunday in the southeastern town of Mapou underlined the acute needs that remain three weeks after May 24 floods that devastated towns along the Haitian-Dominican border, leaving more than 3,300 dead or missing.
“People are doing a great job responding, but there’s a lot more we need to do because there are children who are starving,” said Shannon Strother, a U.N. Children’s Fund nutritionist and nurse who spent last week in Mapou, which remains partly submerged.
Acute malnutrition among children is a major problem, she said, estimating about one-fourth of the 300 children she saw in the town were severely malnourished.
On Sunday some 400 children received 1,100 pounds of biscuits brought in a helicopter chartered by the U.N. World Food Program.
Many children are also suffering from the psychological trauma of losing parents or relatives, Strother said. To help, UNICEF plans to open a child recreation center in Mapou on Tuesday, offering a place for them to play and speak with a psychiatrist.
The floods destroyed nearly two dozen primary schools in the area, and UNICEF has been working with the head of a public school to find classroom space for several thousand children who now have nowhere to go, Strother said.
Also included in Sunday’s aid shipment were 7.7 tons of rice, vegetable oil and other foods, all of which were put in storage until Tuesday, when they are to be handed out.
The Japanese government donated a separate shipment of generators, tents, blankets, water buckets and mattresses and plastic sheets for shelter, officials said.
Some in the area say they want to move for fear that more flooding could hit, and they are asking aid agencies for help. It was raining again Sunday.
Several families have been moved to the nearby town of Grand Fond on a hillside outside Mapou, said Sylera Guillaume, an official with the U.N. Development Program’s disaster unit. Aid agencies hope to relocate more families to higher ground in the coming days.
Meanwhile, about 100 people a day are visiting a Red Cross clinic for treatment of flood-related ailments including severe lesions, mosquito-borne illnesses, diarrhea from contaminated water, and psychological trauma, said Dr. Miuber Castillo, a Cuban physician.
© 2004 The Associated Press