As Hurricane Tomas Approaches, U.S. Stands Ready To Assist Haiti

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
November 5, 2010

Hurricane Tomas Inquiries: You can email inquiries about travel or U.S. citizens in Haiti to, or call 888-407-4747 (from within the United States) or 202-501-4444 (from abroad).

Mark Ward, Acting Director of USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, briefed the press today on U.S. assistance to Haiti related to Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak. Mr. Ward said:

"...[O]ur response has been very much in support and coordination with the Government of Haiti. They've had the lead in this, as they should. We're impressed so far with the work that the Department of Civil Protection is doing. They've had a busy day. The eye of the storm, of course, is moving to the -- now to the northwest. I won't try to point out where it is right now because by the time I point it out, it will have moved on. But it's moving in a northwesterly direction. It may -- the eye may clip the northern claw. We're not sure yet. It may not; it may just say out in the sea. But obviously, we're going to get heavy rainfall, five to ten inches, maybe as much as 15 inches in some area -- some areas.

"Some of the towns on the southern claw are facing flooding in Leogane and in Tiburon and Saint Louis-du-Sud. We've had some flooding -- you'll find those towns if you've got really good eyes on the map we gave you -- where you would expect to see them, in the southwest, where of course the storm first tracked.

"The Department of Civil Protection is estimating that 50 percent of the people in the camps did leave of their own accord overnight, mostly, as we recommended, to stay with host families, with friends and family in safer housing. So far, the government is reporting one fatality on the other side of the southern claw.

"As far as the U.S. Government's response, we were well prepared. We knew that there was a very good chance that there would be a severe storm or a hurricane, and beginning in the early summer, we were doing assessments. We were prepositioning supplies that we would need for heavy weather, things like hygiene kits and water containers, kitchen sets, blankets. We had enough in the country for a hundred thousand people. When it became clear within the last week that we were going to get a severe storm, we got a lot more in, we added enough to help another 25,000 people. So we were ready for about 125,000 people. We moved quickly. When it -- when we learned, for example, that the airport was about to close, we loaded up the last plane in record time. We put out the order for the plane, 9:30 at night, and the plane arrived at 8 o'clock the next morning. And that's how quickly we can move when we have to.

"Our commodities are -- were spread out in the area -- and this is why we handed out this map because I wanted you to see where we had prepositioned commodities so that we were ready wherever the storm would hit. The black boxes that you see are those where USAID and my office, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, has a warehouse that's full of stuff. And then you see the other boxes on the map show you where some of the NGOs that we are funding and others are funding also have stockpiles.

"So we have stuff all over the area that could have been affected by the storm, and in fact, has and is being affected by the storm. So we're able to get supplies out to people quickly that are going to need it. If we need more, if it turns out that prepositioning enough for 125,000 people is not enough -- it probably will be, but should it not be enough, we can move more from our warehouse in Miami and we can even turn to FEMA warehouses in the southern United States. We've already got those arrangements in place.

"We've worked closely with the World Food Program. They have stockpiled food in 32 different locations around the country. They also have a barge. You'll see that boat that -- we've got a little figure there of a boat in the middle of the water. That's to indicate that we have this capacity of a barge where we can get food and other non-food supplies around the cities, around the water, if we have to if access is a problem. The food stocks in-country with WFP are sufficient to feed more than a million people for six weeks.

"My office deployed a DART, a Disaster Assistance Response Team. You'll remember I talked a lot about the Disaster Assistance Response Team in Pakistan a few weeks ago. We have a Disaster Assistance Response Team now in Haiti. It's got 22 people on it. It has deployed some of its officers also to the southern claw, some of the towns out there to be ready. We're also, as you can imagine, coordinating fully with the U.S. military. They had a team on the ground when really left -- they've had people on the ground since the earthquake; they've added people when it began to look like we were going to have a severe storm, and they have the a ship, the USS Iwo Jima, away a bit right now because of the storm, but it will soon be moving to Haiti. It has 10 helicopters, two landing craft, and personnel on board that can help us with public health issues as well as engineering; if we have some access issues they'll be able to deploy quickly to help.

"...We are still very much, because the storm is still with us -- it hasn't moved on yet -- we're very much in the assessing stage, seeing where we need to deploy the relief supplies that we have prepositioned around the country. And in the coming days I'll be able to tell you -- we'll be able to tell you more about the actual areas, that if needed help, and what we've been able to provide them."

You can read the full briefing transcript here.



Jean C.
Florida, USA
November 6, 2010

Jean F.C. in Florida writes:

"In addition to demonstrating the weaknesses of Haiti's infrastructure, the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, exposed the weaknesses of Haiti's state institutions. To avoid a repetition of the disaster, the government of Haiti and the international donor community now need to turn to building the foundations for a more effective state." Building a more resilient Haitian state


Unfortunately, the next disaster in Haiti might be manmade and self-inflicted: the presidential elections for November 28, 2010. We must build the institutions first, than we can have free and credible elections; otherwise voting in Haiti is like flying an airplane with no airport within reach... it's all good until you are ready to land.
Thank you so much for the Department of State's selfless and extraordinary assistance to the Haitian people since January 12, 2010 and beyond. Let us hope that working together, Haiti's political leaders and its international partners will find a new way to facilitate the rebirth of this exceptional nation.


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