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Outside Port-au-Prince Quake Victims Receive Little Help

Old colonial-style buildings in Jacmel, Haiti sustained heavy damage, 25 Jan 2010

After more than a week of reporting on the earthquake from Port-au-Prince, a team of VOA journalists traveled south of the capital to see how people in other parts of Haiti are surviving. Jeff Swicord reports along the road to Jacmel, a beach town south of Port-au-Prince.

We head south from Port-au-Prince. At about 35 kilometers outside the city the landscape changes from collapsed buildings into banana and sugar cane plantations.

On the horizon, helicopters make their way to a landing zone set up by U.S. Marines. Rural Haiti has received little assistance since the January 12 earthquake.

Here, the Marines were unloading boxes of meals ready-to-eat (MREs) and trucking them to villages that dot the countryside. "We've learned that there are a lot of villages, people have lost everything, just fully destroyed, just camping out some of them under the stars. No one is giving aid to them. So our focus for the next five or six days is going to be working on the outlying areas," said Pat Brady, with the organization Crisis Aid.

The mountains around Port-au-Prince were once covered with thick forests. For years, Haiti has had severe deforestation. Many of the trees have been cut down to make charcoal, the preferred cooking fuel.

The powerful quake created landslides along the hills. With no trees to stop the slide, the road was buried in places. Local residents have been working to clear a path.

In the hills, we stopped in the village of Tombe Gateau. These men were selling lottery tickets. And they set up a roulette wheel to make some money.

This woman had a food stall up and running. But only a few people had enough money to buy. Local resident Pierre Hyppolite confirmed what we heard in the valley below: help has been slow to reach remote areas.

"So far we have gotten no food or water," he told us. "Actually we are thirsty and we want some food. We also would like to have some tents," said Hyppolite.

Under a tree we met worshippers from the Philadelphia church, dressed in their Sunday best. During the quake, the church collapsed with 70 people inside. Seventeen were killed.

"We come here to pray, to help those who are suffering," said Justene Saint Cloux, one of the survivors.

Heading down from the mountains toward the Caribbean Sea, we see the beach town of Jacmel in the distance.

Along the way, another reminder of how powerful the quake was.

Jacmel, much smaller than Port-au-Prince, is known for its artists. Its old colonial style buildings sustained heavy damage.

"There were six people dead in that house over there. And three people in that house," said one person.

This man normally sells his art to tourists. But there are none here since the quake. In desperation, he quickly made some pieces hoping someone would come along and buy them. "You know, I have three children. Now I don't have any help, you know. I am trying to finish some of them. Because I think if I got them in my hand I could find someone to buy some of them," the artist said.

Finally we reach the Caribbean. A U.S. Navy ship steams away. After 10 days of reporting on the horrific tragedy, listening to the waves washing up on the shore was peaceful and soothing.