Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Needs Cuba Now

As reported everywhere, conditions in Haiti are awful and help must be delivered to millions over the next three of four days.  The question is how?

Effectively all the building stock is uninhabitable.  At present it is a desperate race to dig out the handful of living and recover the dead.  The only mercy is that it is warm and obviously not the rainy season.  Had this occurred in Northern China, those trapped would already be frozen to death.

Right now someone needs to facilitate support from the Cuban military and medical system and even pay for it.  They have medical personnel and likely sea lift to move victims quickly out of harms way onto the Cuban hospital system.  Most important, they can put those boots on the ground which is what is needed right now.   More critically, they are used to the local conditions.

Hopefully the political types can quickly get over their issues for a time in order to pull this chunk of fat out of the fire.  In the meantime, Cuba already had 300 doctors in country and that means that fresh doctors can be absorbed instantly as well as medical supplies.  In fact, the one bright spot besides the pleasant weather, it that we have a good number of foreign aid groups already in country able to absorb manpower and supplies now.

The immediate advent of several thousand troops from the US will allow some order to be brought out of the present chaos and the built up areas can be quickly cleared of people.  This is necessary because bodies are already beginning to deteriorate and the living need to get food and water now and that is easiest done at marshalling points. 


The challenge is to get the boots on the ground to control and manage the necessary supply tail that is been mobilized.  Essentially three million people are about to spend the next few months under canvass and everyone else will be struggling to access broken distribution networks. 

It is also a surety that most of the damaged buildings will have to be bulldozed.  It is therefore a great time to plan a new city and to establish better building codes. 


Aid workers in Haiti face 'logistical nightmare'

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer  58 mins ago

GENEVA – Roads full of hungry, homeless people. A ruined port and an overwhelmed airport. Hundreds of crumpled buildings and little heavy machinery. Few working phones.

Relief supplies and emergency experts started pouring into Haiti from around the world Thursday but aid groups said the challenge of helping Haiti's desperate quake survivors was enormous.

"It's chaos," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. "It's a logistical nightmare."

Aid deliveries by ship were impossible to Port-au-Prince because the Haitian capital's port was closed due to severe damage from Tuesday magnitude-7 earthquake. The city's airport was open but damaged, laboring mightily to handle a flurry of incoming aid flights.

Fearful of going near quake-damaged buildings, Haitians stood or rested on the roads, slowing the transport of food and other crucial aid.

Severe damage to at least eight Port-au-Prince hospitals made it nearly impossible to treat the thousands of injured or prevent outbreaks of disease, said Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, presents unique logistical challenges for aid workers even in the best of times. It shares an island with the Dominican Republic, meaning that aid must arrive by sea or air. Haitian streets are in poor condition under normal circumstances, and even if aid reaches the Dominican Republic, the road from there to Port-au-Prince is narrow and easily clogged.

Almost everything has to be imported, even wood for building temporary shelters, because Haitians have denuded their hillsides by cutting trees for cooking fuel.
"If you see Dominican Republic and Haiti from the air, it's really striking," said Byrs. "Half of the island is green and the rest is dust."

In addition, Haiti was already heavily damaged by a series of severe hurricanes, the most recent in 2008.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday the U.S. government was making an initial $100 million relief effort and promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort that included military and civilian emergency teams from across the U.S.

"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," Obama said.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was deployed to Haiti, and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had been ordered to sail as soon as possible with a 2,000-member Marine unit.

Even as the United Nations stepped up its massive aid operation, the world body was trying to determine how many of its own staff were killed in earthquake.

"It's very difficult to give an exact number," said Byrs. "This is also a tragedy for the United Nations."

She said up to 100 U.N. staff were trapped in the main U.N. peacekeepers' building, which was destroyed.

Byrs said 40 search-and-rescue teams from around the world had started arriving in Haiti to look for survivors trapped inside collapsed buildings. But to find and save people, the rescuers need heavy machinery to lift tons of rubble — equipment that teams from places like Britain and Iceland have, but others don't.

Haiti has virtually none of those machines but aid workers were trying to get some into Haiti from theDominican Republic, Charles Vincent of the World Food Program said.

"We'll have to see how that works out," said Vincent. "The U.S. military will also be bringing in some equipment."

The desperate situation has aid groups fearing a surge in lawlessness, Vincent said. U.N.

peacekeepers are patrolling to try to control looting but they are dealing with many deaths and injuries of their own, he added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its forensic specialists would help ensure that bodies of the quake victims are recovered and identified for the benefit of their families.

The Red Cross set up a special Web site to help Haitians find their missing loved ones, and after just a few hours, over 5,000 people had already registered on it, many from the United States and Canada.

Aid was delivered or promised from many countries, including Brazil, the European Union, Britain, Germany,Israel, France, Switzerland, South Korea and Canada. China dispatched a chartered plane carrying 10 tons of tents, food, medical equipment and sniffer dogs, along with a 60-member earthquake relief team who worked in China's own 2008 earthquake, which killed some 90,000 people.

The Red Cross estimated that some 3 million people in Haiti will require aid, ranging from shelter to food and clean water, and said many Haitians could need relief aid for a full year.

Aid workers base such estimates on previous disasters that appear to be the same size, said Pablo Medina, operations coordinator of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"At this very early hour, with such limited amount of information, what you have to do is base your calls on past experience on previous earthquakes, on media reports and on information on the ground," Medina told the AP.

Initial planning is conservative and is normally revised upward as more information becomes available. This time, the Red Cross decided to send 100 experts to Haiti.
"That's fairly big," Medina said.
Associated Press Writers Frank Jordans in Geneva, Meera Selva in London, Tini Tranh in Beijing, Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Aus

Cuba Sends More Docs to Haiti

January 14, 2010

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 14 — The Cuban government sent to Haiti the first contingent of doctors from the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade that specializes in assisting after natural disasters and serious epidemics.
The brigade was first established to offer help to the United States when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, an offer rejected by ex-President Bush.
Since then the brigade has been on the scene after earthquakes in Pakistan, and China, the Tsunami in Indonesia and major flooding in Guatemala and Bolivia.
Cuba already had 344 doctors and other health professionals working full time in Haiti under an agreement with the Haitian government.
Victor Geneus, Haiti’s ambassador to Havana, thanked the Cuban people and government for their assistance in such difficult times.  “The Cuban doctors have a lot of experience with our reality and a lot of desire to understand and help, and that’s what we most needed,” Geneus told the Cuban News Agency.

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