Logistics for Haiti Emergency Response
On Friday 15th January I was put on standby to be deployed for the Haiti Earthquake response, and on Saturday afternoon I was told I was going. By 12noon on Sunday I was on a flight and landed around midnight local time to Santa Domingo.
Not sure really where to start, everything has moved so fast in the last 4 weeks…it really has been amazing to see how fast teams can be recruited, trucks moved, offices rented, vehicles purchased, and money spent, and hopefully lives saved.
I am based here in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where we are mostly dealing with the supply chain – procuring goods, receiving goods from flights and forwarding it all on in trucks over the border.
The Emergency Team has grown from 0 to over 15 people now including some who have been seconded for a few months from the existing development programme here with Save the Children Dominican Republic.
I went over to Port au Prince (PaP) last week with 2 colleagues from the Santo Domingo office, initially for a logistics meeting, although I ended up being asked to stay for a few days longer – where I was kept busy, if not more busy than on the other side of the island.
We drove over in an overnight minibus to PaP because the border is open at 6am (which is about 4 hours from Santo Domingo). The queue of trucks with humanitarian aid was really huge…I don’t think the congestion has quietened much since the first few weeks. So many trucks have been coming over from the Dom. Rep. mainly because the airport is still congested (before the earthquake it only took 3 flights a day, and in the first few weeks following the emergency the US military had most of the landing slots, which was much more than the small airport was designed to deal with anyway).
The markets in PaP are only now starting to open up again, but things are hard to find and also really expensive. We have therefore been doing lots of procurement here in Dom. Rep. There is also another supply hub based in Miami that has been sending aid in to the response for Save the Children.
The Save the Children US office in Haiti existed before the earthquake and was fortunately only partially affected by the quake…the back terrace wall has gone, but the rest of the building has been checked by engineers and is now fully being used by the 70 odd new international emergency staff and 60 staff who were already working there. Most staff are sleeping in tents in the garden at the front of the office and the rest of the space is occupied/crammed by the 30 or more vehicles being used every day to run people to programmes, meetings and warehouses etc. They are working on getting an emergency office and letting the development programme have its home back…just like we are here in Dom. Rep. too. (We are still cosily sharing 4 people to a desk…hopefully moving this week though).
The situation is quite horrific in PaP. It seems like it really will take a long time to re-home people back to any sort of normality. There are hundreds of informal settlements dotted around the city in all spaces possible. People are living under plastic sheeting or any other materials they can find. The largest we saw was in the square by the Palace…we only passed the Palace quickly in a car but is was overwhelming to see something so large completely collapsed. It really must have been so tragic to see everything collapse around you within seconds.
Aside from the severe shelter situation, distributions of aid have been quite difficult. Most distributions have been armed guarded in order to maintain crowd control. There are so many desperate people in need, within a relatively small area so it is hard to maintain crowd control.
During our visit we went to one of our distributions of the NFI (non-food-item) household/hygiene kits…it was great to see the kits that we had made in Dom Rep being handed over to the beneficiaries, although its clear that so much more hard work and effort will be required in the next few months especially before the rainy season begins.