Haiti & Relief Logistics
January 15th, 2010·
I have been watching some of the coverage regarding the terrible tragedy in Haiti right now and I am beginning to see some “commentary creep” regarding why food/water/first aid is “slow” in getting into Haiti.
Having served with the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I can offer some insight on the type of logistical problems a major disaster provides. When I arrived to serve the Gulf Coast as a Red Cross government liaison, we could not land in Mississippi. We had to arrive in Birmingham, AL and get cars to drive to Biloxi, MS. By the time we reached Mobile, AL it was apparent is was going to be difficult driving the remaining hour or so to our destination.
Bridges were damaged and roads were severely restricted by debris and the masses of trucks of supplies driving westward. So, it took about 5 hours to drive 1 hours worth. We even got into a fender-bender with someone slamming on their brakes to avoid debris. When we finally did get further into MS, it became so frighteningly clear what we were up against.
There was no electricity, no stores, no restaurants open at that time and there was a strict curfew after dark. It was easy to see why. The landscape was decimated, devastated and utterly destroyed. Trying to organize all the supplies to reach everyone along the Coast was a logistical nightmare. It was not for a lack of effort, or trying. It was simply extremely slow-going and everyone had to work around broken bridges, debris filled streets to try and get points of distribution set up and mobile relief vehicles on schedules amidst the destruction.
Disaster relief is initially a slow, painstaking process. And that is in the United States. This is Haiti, the 4th impoverished nation in the world. Haiti’s airport was not meant to handle the amount of air traffic it is trying to accommodate at this moment. In addition, its tower was destroyed and some areas of the tarmac compromised. So to land a C-130 filled with equipment, unload it/refuel is a not a quick turnaround.
Then comes the problem of getting that machinery over heavily damaged roads in a 4th world country. One cannot imagine how large a task this is. Their port is damaged, so that’s out of the equation. In addition, Haiti is an island. Our aircraft carrier has just arrived and the USS Comfort is days away. It’s not as though one can airdrop supplies upon the collapsed buildings.
I say this because I feel so sick about the tragedy and wish I could help out on the ground. My heart goes out to all the Haitians–struggling to survive, struggling to stay alive, trapped and praying for rescue and for the countless lives lost–and to their families in the United States as well. My heartfelt thanks to all those on the ground trying to make a difference and help in this Herculean effort.
This is a disaster of unimaginable proportion. The logistical challenge is immense and I hope the commentary doesn’t turn into a chorus of “why is it taking so long?” Their government is virtually gone and I am sure everyone is doing everything they can to get in to provide relief.
P.S. To Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson & Rep. King: Can you really call yourselves “Christians?” If so, your God has a special place for you.