2010-02-10

United Nations halts handouts after counterfeit coupons are circulated

The United Nations stopped handing out food at its distribution site in Petionville after it was discovered counterfeit aid coupons were circulating the area. (Sophia Paris/MINUSTAH via Getty Images)

The United Nations stopped handing out food at its distribution site in Petionville after it was discovered counterfeit aid coupons were circulating the area. (Sophia Paris/MINUSTAH via Getty Images)

By Jon Gallo for Infosurhoy.com—10/2/2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The United Nations stopped handing out food at one of its distribution sites in the nation’s capital on Feb. 8 after learning that fake coupons redeemable for aid were being circulated, according to Agence France-Presse. Relief workers ceased the distribution of rice at a station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville as officials combed the area to learn how many counterfeit coupons had been passed out in the community. The stoppage could have massive consequences, as it could slow the distribution of food to about 10,000 hungry residents, according to the UN World Food Program's David Orr. Orr told AFP there would be “too much room for confusion” if distribution continued as planned and that the scams were “getting more sophisticated.” The break, however, could enable the World Food Program, which has claimed to have fed nearly two million since the Jan. 12 earthquake, to improve its distribution method. Orr told AFP that officials were concerned that the genuine coupons were not reaching enough women, who are the target demographic because they are more inclined to share food than men. Still, about 100 waited at the Petionville distribution site, hoping for food. “We need food!” one old lady shouted at a guard protecting the entrance to the center, according to AFP. The World Food Program has set up 16 food distribution centers across the nation’s capital to hand out 25-kilogram sacks of rice, which should feed a family for two weeks, according to AFP. But after food distribution centers were overrun with people clamoring for food, the UN created a coupon system in which certain color coupons coordinate with certain stations on certain days.

Angelina Jolie visits Haiti

Academy Award-winning movie star and philanthropist Angelina Jolie was in Haiti on Feb. 9 to begin her two-day visit, according to The Associated Press. Jolie will visit orphanages and homeless camps in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Jolie spent Feb. 8 in neighboring Dominican Republic, where she visited with Haitian children who are receiving medical treatment, according to Agence France-Presse. The visit by Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, previously had visited Thailand, Pakistan and Iraq to perform charity work representing UNHCR. In the Dominican Republic, the actress visited the pediatric wing of Dario Contreras hospital in Santo Domingo. She was joined by Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, who is the leader of the UNHCR team in Haiti and the Domincan Republic and is the son of renowned Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Jolie and her partner, actor Brad Pitt, already have donated US$1 million to Doctors Without Borders following the earthquake on Jan. 12.

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