In the best of times, Haitians battle chronic hunger, disease, joblessness and insecurity. When Hurricane Matthew ravaged the southwestern region Oct. 4, the fragile balance gave way to desperate chaos, with mass homelessness, a cholera outbreak and food shortages straining meagre government resources and overwhelming humanitarian organizations.
In remote villages throughout the region, the message is the same: No one is helping us, and the government doesn’t care.
In this context, voters will choose their next president Sunday in an election many fear could end in violence or the same kinds of fraud allegations that nullified the results of an October 2015 poll. Dozens of polling places are being used as temporary shelters for people displaced by the hurricane. And already there are allegations of officials distributing humanitarian aid on the basis of political loyalty.
West of Les Cayes, the region’s largest city, I spoke with an elderly couple in their home on a mountain ridge. The hurricane had reduced their concrete walls to a pile of stone, and one of their sons had patched up the opening with sheet metal. With their fruit trees destroyed and livestock killed by debris, they were living on white rice and gravy donated by family members in Les Cayes. Joseph Bazile, a wiry grandfather of 73 years, said someone passed out buckets of rice and water in a nearby town, but it wasn’t enough for everyone and no one had alerted them.
“We’re in God’s hands,” Bazile said.