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In Saint-Martin, the distribution of food is done in pain

Ⓒ AFP – Martin BUREAU – | Distribution of food in Marigot to Saint Martin Island, September 12, 2017

“I’m hungry and thirsty”: a pregnant woman, unable to restrain her tears, throws herself on the bottle and the bundle of almonds that are handed to her in front of a dump truck filled with food, emergency refueling facility in Saint-Martin.

There are many, tired faces, features dug to wait on this Tuesday morning that distribution begins. At the front of the line, the Red Cross forms a cordon of security to contain the pressure of the people who are advancing.

“These are goods that come from a reserve of a company and a water truck should follow,” says Joachim, in charge of organizing distribution for the NGO.

In the bucket, the firemen activate to pass the products and distribute them. Others surround the crowd, scrutinize it, come and go relentlessly seeking the most fragile, the elderly, pregnant women and children. All those who must pass in priority.

Ⓒ AFP – Martin BUREAU – | Distribution of food aid to Marigot, Saint-Martin Island, September 12, 2017

They try to reassure those who arrive and worry about the length of the line. “As long as there are people in the bucket madam, it’s because there are things left,” one of them told a woman concerned about her chances of obtaining food.

They distribute fresh produce, such as eggs, chickens or milk. The line began to form well before the arrival of the dump truck at about 10:00. Some have already been waiting for more than two hours, in full sunlight and overwhelming heat, almost without wind.

– Water is lacking –

“We learned that there would be a distribution by emergency radio, 91.1,” said Pierre-Richard Gaspard. His neighbor knew through word of mouth that flows from one point of the island to the other.

On the spot, the announcements of Emmanuel Macron, arrived the same day on the island, make smile, irritate sometimes. Emergency is drinking water. And the food. But water, especially.

Ⓒ AFP – Martin BUREAU – | Food Distribution in Marigot, Saint-Martin Island, September 12, 2017

Sandrine waits since 7:45, she is hot and thirsty: “there is not even water, how are we going to do? I have nothing left at home.” Talking, tears are rising. A friend, next to her, takes her in her arms and cradles her: “It’s okay, we’ll help each other.”

In the queue, the tension rises: “We are scrambling from point to point,” shouts a woman who says to be called MJ, “and when we arrive there, we have to go elsewhere, because there is more nothing”. “We do not have a car, no house, no more water, no more food and it’s too long!” She says.

Some crack. They try their luck at the nearby grocer who reopens from time to time, and filters out customers at the entrance to avoid the riot in his shop.

An hour later, at the refueling point, the queue decreased, the bucket was almost empty. All those who waited were served. They leave with a small smile, thanking, the arms laden with food. But without water.

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