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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

.Haiti – The Gift of Hindsight and a Plea to The White House

 



Haiti – The Gift of Hindsight and a Plea to The White House



Its too late to put this all in place for the damned of Haiti (because that is what they are), deprived of the basic essentials of life, water, food, shelter and medical assistance.


Yes money is being raised all over the world and teams of reporters around the clock show us the aircraft landing and taking off. They also show us pictures of neatly stacked sacks of flour and rice. Hey hold on a minute…neatly stacked sacks of flour and rice? Precisely my reaction.



“Why is it in a warehouse and not in the hands of those wretched people who have had their lives turned upside down?” “In case they start to riot” is the stock reply from the military – the US military that is, who have control of the airport, courtesy of the Haiti Government who seem to have been airbrushed from this bloody canvas. No doubt doing a really good job of supporting the incoming hoards of soldiers and neatly stacking all the support equipment.


The problem is that the United Nations is still in mourning for the loss of life of their local mission, some 200 souls. Due to lack of joined up thinking, instead of drafting in a new fully resourced team, they keep harping on about how the local team had all the information and had been on site for many years.


With respect, that apart from the volatile population they were also sitting on a powder keg. They should also have known they were on top of a major fault line and that sooner or later the whole country would erupt and that we would be faced with the current carnage? No. they just jogged along, stacking sacks in warehouses and auditing equipment.


UN and NGO’s all want to be top dog and run their own operations in their own way and according to their training and ethnic proclivities or cultural traits. The military will rarely cede control of their forces to a civilian so you have an impasse and the breeding ground for chaos.


Perhaps if the Americans had taken a leaf out the Normandy D-Day landings and appointed a form of ‘Beachmaster’, his sole task was to get soldiers and equipment off the beach as soon as possible or be mown down by a well entrenched enemy, only the trenches were purpose built pillboxes and on top of a cliff and the beach; a wide open canvas of death being constantly racked by machine gun fire, mortars and dive bombing aircraft.



I’m not for a moment suggesting the troops are bombed but a similar sense of urgency seems to be required 64 years on.

 
They of course have the ideal distribution set up for Port au Price and that has to be on the lawns of the ruined presidential palace, which is surrounded by a sturdy metal fence with slats wide enough to pass food and drink through.


Wristbands as used at pop festivals would identify those who have been fed or simple rubber stamps on the back of a hand. The wristbands all ready barcoded, widely available as stock items so you have the basis of an identity system.


But this is now, what can be done? Low level air drops, all over the target zone and as cruise ships are still able to get into Labadee, a series of chartered passenger empty but fully crewed modern cruise ships could daily easily take 4,000 to 8,000 of the worse cases to a fallback position in the Dominican republic or the US mainland itself.

 
What regular passengers don’t realise is that a major tunnel some 30 ft wide, is already in place the length of the newer ships for crew to quickly get to different parts of the ship its called ‘the motorway’ literally thousands of extra stretchers could be accommodated in addition to cabins.


I’d even be tempted to use the motorised tenders (each capable of taking over 150 people) directly to the Dominican mainland and bring back relief supplies on the return run. But all this is with the value of hindsight or is it?


 Years ago as a consultant, I ran the PR and marketing for Europe Assistance the worldwide medical emergency service, used by Holiday and Travel Insurance companies to medevac their insured but injured patients, EA employed a Doctor Richard Fairclough, and on a regular basis Richard and his team of aero medical nurses would round up the injured from the playgrounds of Europe and fly them back to the UK where a fleet of ambulances would be waiting on the runway.


The aircraft would change crews and it would immediately turn round, the medical team would snatch an hours sleep on the vacated stretchers (and a blast of oxygen) as the next load would be gathered up and the whole operation repeated over again. In Haiti you don’t see this and you really have to ask why?


So what can be done? It has to come directly from the President of the USA, he has to order his military people to immediately EMPTY THE WAREHOUSES, airdrop as much as possible and set up mass feeding stations inside the Palace grounds and the airport perimeter.




There is also a complete lack of heavy lifting capacity and the port area has been wrecked. Again going back to the D-day landings, there has to be barges and floating jetties available The UK made whole series of them (in fact another former 1980’s client ITM Middlesborough) and immediately sailed them all the way down to the Falklands when the UK had a slight problem with Argentina!


If the USA or anyone else has similar structures (barges with covers will do) these should by now be steaming towards Haiti and filled with relief supplies. On arrival, Set up a new temporary port well away from the old one and get the engineering heavy lift in that way.




Hopefully someone out there is listening and can have a word in influential ears as certainly no one on the ground seems to be currently in control or more importantly recognising the immediate need is for clean water around the clock, nutrition, medical supplies and in that order. It might not be pretty or done by the book but one look at the new ground zero and its clear the book has not only been torn up but buried under a mass of twisted bodies, steel and concrete slabs.



Send copies of this to your politician, add your own thoughts but for pity’s sake people are dying as others dither, talk strategy. Badly mutilated dehydrated humans unable to move, their cries unheeded, having limbs cut off without painkilling medication and in makeshift fly infested operating theatres right on the street. This is 2010 not 1810.



Julian Bray
20 January 2010


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