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Coupon scam hits Haiti food aid
Distribution in Port-au-Prince suburb suspended after counterfeit vouchers found.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2010 06:09 GMT

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports on Haiti's
'culture of corruption'

The World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily halted food aid to about 10,000 survivors of Haiti's earthquake after some people tried to use fake coupons to secure rations.

The attempted scam was discovered on Monday as the
United Nations said that some hospitals were charging patients for medicines provided for free by the relief effort.

Four weeks after the 7.0 magnitude quake levelled much of the capital Port-au-Prince and the surrounding towns, an estimated one million people remain homeless and are struggling to receive basic supplies.

WFP has set up 16 food distribution points across the city, handing out 25kg sacks of rice designed to feed a family for two weeks.

Colour code

Since one incident in which UN officials attempting to distribute food were overrun by survivors, the UN agency has introduced a coupon system, which means recipients have to get a specifically coloured and stamped coupon showing which site food can be picked up at and on which day.

special report
Special Report: Haiti earthquake

These are fake coupons which started turning up ... yellow in colour," David Orr, the WFP spokesman, said.

"The coupons we gave out for this particular site yesterday are green so it was immediately apparent to us that there was some fraud involved here."

Orr said that WFP hoped to reopen the site in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville on Tuesday.

However, about 100 Haitians continued to queue at the site. 

"We need food!" one old lady shouted at a guard manning the steel bars blocking the entrance to the area. Others simply pointed to their mouths and stomachs.

Medical shipments

The UN has threatened to cut off shipments of medicine after discovering that some private and public hospitals were charging, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Medical treatmnent was made free following the earthquake on January 12 [AFP]
After the catastrophic earthquake struck on January 12, authorities immediately decided to make all medical care free and millions of dollars worth of medicine has been donated.

"The money is huge," Christophe Rerat of the Pan American Health Organization, the UN health agency in the region, was quoted as saying.

He said that there was no need for hospitals to charge patients to pay their staff, because Haitian health ministry employees were being paid with donated money.

With more than 500,000 peole living in makeshift camps across Port-au-Prince the situation remains dire for the survivors and their are fears that it will worsen as the rainy season begins.

"We don't have $60 million to buy 100,000 tents," Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, the interior minister, said.

Steady rains are expected to begin by the end of February and the hurricane season will start in June.

Source:
Agencies
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