TABARRE, Haiti — For more than 500 people who have banded together in solace and solidarity in a field here, there is no food. At the beginning of the week, a delegation went to the mayor's office, then to the United Nations and back to the mayor.
"We've gotten nothing yet," schoolteacher Guerlouse Jean-Marie said Thursday as she sat in the shade, waiting. "They haven't come here at all."
While food deliveries are under way to Haiti's stricken population, the enormity of the unmet need is as clear as the desolation on the faces in this field, a 10-minute drive from the U.N. logistics base and the main Port-au-Prince airport, where dozens of cargo-laden flights land each day.
The U.N. World Food Program sharply reduced its deliveries this week after failing to obtain enough U.N. peacekeepers or U.S. soldiers to keep anxious crowds in order. After staging as many as 20 deliveries in a day last weekend, the agency has cut that number to a maximum of five.
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The limit was set by the U.N. peacekeeping command, which concluded that its weary and overstretched troops could handle no more than that, according to WFP spokesman David Orr. With an estimated 2 million people in serious need after the Jan. 12 earthquake, U.N. officials say they have been pressing U.S. military leaders to assign more soldiers to food missions.
The World Food Program calculates that it has reached about 500,000 Haitians, including about 300,000 in the capital, where hundreds of thousands of people are living without shelter, water or power.
Scott Lewis, who brought a team of volunteers from West Palm Beach, Fla., oversaw a delivery of 60 tons of dried food and cooking oil near the presidential palace. Thousands of people lined up and, as the supplies diminished, panicked and rushed the bags, tearing them open in a frenzy. Peacekeepers used tear gas.
"That's human suffering. It's desperation, and it's understandable," said Lewis, president of the Eagles Wings Foundation, a small nonprofit organization.