In response to last month’s devastating hurricane that ravaged the southern coast of Haiti, a consortium of logistics-based relief groups have partnered with their respective industries to implement a complete delivery chain, including last-mile solutions to remote and inaccessible disaster zones such as Haiti’s Grand’Anse and Sud departments, where Hurricane Matthew struck hardest.
Air Cargo World spent the better part of this week in Haiti covering relief efforts by the three non-profits behind this week’s airlift – Airlink, which links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits, along with LIFT and the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN). Airlink also brought Western Global and Bell Helicopters on board to join in the relief effort.
LIFT is well connected to the forwarder community, connecting disaster responders with general aviation aircraft, heavy jets, helicopters, small and large maritime vessels, and ground transportation to bring people and cargo to disaster sites. The third partner organization, ALAN, brought U.S. trucking and warehousing companies on board, and is comprised of hundreds of supply-chain businesses who provide expertise in transportation, warehousing, cold storage, and distribution. ALAN worked with charities to consolidate and move goods from suppliers to the hardest hit zones in Haiti.
Relief organizations in Haiti operate in a challenging environment in the best of times – in relative terms – but the current political climate has thrown up additional obstacles that make it hard to deliver the sort of supplies and personnel that NGOs are calling for.
To start with, the hurricane postponed a critical election in Haiti, and while Brad Barker, Airlink’s in-country country team leader, was clear that the local government had been, “great to work with,” the country is ostensibly leaderless and that in turn has postponed important decisions about the kind of aid that will be allowed and the extent to which the U.N. is involved.
Haiti has been burned by bungled relief efforts in the past, and locals are rightfully wary. In addition, affected regions are designated “disaster recovery” zones, even though tens of thousands are more realistically still living in extant “disaster” zones. Seen from above, the damage is extensive – In some areas most of the roofs on buildings are still missing, weeks after the storm hit on Oct. 4.
Residents in these regions are more concerned with keeping the rain out than the poor visuals generated by their living conditions. The perceptions of inaction and corruption are fueling discontent – on my first day on the ground, a chopper mission to evacuate a medical team from Les Cayes, on Haiti’s southern coast had to be called back because burning road blocks prevented the passengers from making it to the landing strip.
The local mayor was also kidnapped that day, and the team of volunteers from from Les Cayes were visibly burned out and relieved when they arrived on the tarmac at Toussaint Louverture International Airport 24 hours later, when Airlink was finally able to get them out.
Stringent restrictions on the deployment of tents and tarps is an especially contentious example of the bureaucratic impediments to relief efforts. NGO workers grumble about it in airport waiting rooms, while roofless Haitians scramble to find alternatives. However, the government has limited their use due to the poor visibility generated by their prominence years after the 2010 earthquake.
Haiti’s government wants to avoid “temporary shelters” turning into permanent ones, however on the ground in Grand’Anse, thousands of displaced Haitians are crowded into a school that should reasonably house a few hundred at most, with entire families packed into broom-closet-sized rooms. Meanwhile, emergency shelters are stacking up in warehouses in Port-au-Prince while the limited number of tarps that make it to the periphery are being sold along the roadside due to high demand.
Here is a short video show the relief supplies loading onto the Western Global MD-11: