Earthquake victims' protest camp in Mexico City. Earthquake victims' protest camp in Mexico City.

Oaxaca quake victims look to UN in aid fight

Hundreds of families are still waiting for aid funds, says protesters' spokesperson

Earthquake victims in Oaxaca have turned to the United Nations (UN) for support in their fight to receive the financial aid they were promised by the federal government to rebuild their homes.

About 80 residents of affected towns in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, which bore the brunt of the powerful September 7 quake, began a sit-in Monday outside the Mexico City office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), demanding that it intervene.

One of them was Magali Sánchez Santiago, who told the newspaper Milenio that there are at least 300 families still waiting to receive financial assistance from the Natural Disaster Fund (Fonden).

She said 120 families are waiting for a final deposit they were promised, while around 180 families haven’t received any funds at all.

She explained that the protesters are asking the OHCHR to “intervene as one of the mediators so the treatment [they receive from authorities] is not indecent and unfair.”

Sánchez also called on the responsible federal agencies to resolve the problems residents face “without political, economic, religious, ethnic or gender discrimination.”

In the aftermath of September’s two devastating earthquakes, the federal government announced that 120,000 pesos (US $6,600) would be made available to thousands of people whose homes had sustained total damage in either of the two disasters.

The method chosen to distribute the funds was via stored-value bank cards.

However, the roll-out of the aid scheme was slow, it was hindered by a card cloning scam and some earthquake victims were excluded despite seemingly qualifying for the assistance.

Another participant of this week’s sit-in told Milenio that the most recent damage census in the Tehuantepec region — carried out after another earthquake on September 23 — was both incomplete and discriminatory.

“. . . They didn’t check homes as they should have, they walked the streets only taking a census of those they wanted to. Hundreds of houses in the municipal seat [of Tehuantepec] weren’t even taken into account because of the simple fact that they’re indigenous, because they can’t express themselves, they can’t speak [Spanish], they can’t read,” Maricela Barriga said.

Seven months have now passed since the earthquakes of September but the reconstruction process across Mexico has been “alarmingly slow,” Save the Children México said last month.

Some communities, particularly those in Oaxaca, have been left in a precarious situation which threatens both the health and livelihood of their residents.

Sánchez warned there is a risk of sanitation and economic crises in municipalities including Tehuantepec, Juchitán, Ixtaltepec, Santo Domingo Petapa, Santa María Xadani and Salina Cruz, due to a failure by authorities to repair or rebuild local markets, hospitals and water and sanitation infrastructure.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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