Here is a letter from Rotarian Dick McComb, Past District Governor, from February 7th, regarding the situation in Haiti. As long as my sister, Rotarian Erva Denham, passes them on to me, I will pass them on to you. These letters are small inside glimpses into what is happening, into what is needed and wanted. This letter is long. Bless each of you who takes a moment to read it.
I have just concluded our assessment of the situation in Haiti, and have just finished making a number of lengthy calls with the team on the ground in Haiti. Based on this I wanted to share with you the situation as I understand it today.
The position we took last week in which we said to hold off on further deliveries of medical supplies not already in route was the correct one. Currently in the Port au Prince area there is no shortage of these medical supplies. In fact the challenge is now the sorting and the distribution of these items. This is at a critical stage because of the volume of random medical inventory received and specific needs that may currently be outstanding. As far as medical supplies are concerned the advice from the team is "do not send anything else unless it is specific in terms of the location and the product". We need to be sure we coordinate this so we do not duplicate the supply chain and add to the problem.
There are a number of private Hospitals in the rural areas that are in need of some specific things, but there are also others that have an excess of supplies. We are in the process of balancing this as best we can now. After that specific orders will be processed as they come in. I am told that most of the Government Hospitals are getting the supplies they need with the exception of a few specifics which we are trying to address on their behalf through the Rotary Leadership in that area. That seems to be more equipment related than medical supplies.
The food and shelter needs are still very high on the priority list. The challenge we have on the ground now is the storage and distribution logistics of the food and shelter items. In Port au Prince in particular there are numerous International Organizations that are distributing food in the quake region. For the most part their capabilities for this are better than ours so most of those efforts should be left to them. Our Rotarians on the ground are doing some food and shelter distribution as well from the supplies Rotary has sent. It is important that they continue to do this and that we continue to supply them. Not only is it helping the most needy, but it seems to be providing our Rotarians a purpose on the ground in their respective communities. Keeping the Rotarian alive in spirit is essential at this difficult time and it must be rewarding for our Rotarians to be able to help their neighbours and their communities through this. I will try to get further specifics to you on what we should continue to supply, but bulk rice, beans, flour, proteins, vegetable oil etc and Tents are a safe bet for now.
There are in excess of 10,000 Shelter Boxes in Haiti and most of them set up or in the process of being set up. The distribution is being done through a number of international organizations. Rotary has had an allocation of them for the use of Rotarians and their families in need. As of today there are about 45 in our possession still not distributed but they will be sent out in the next couple of days.
There has been a great response with Water Boxes, Purification Systems and water supply. In many instances these resources have been sent directly to Rotary in Haiti for distribution. In my discussions with the team on the ground it appears that the distribution of these assets would be best handled by the Haiti Water Commission and the selected agency it is working with for the distribution. They are better equipped to know where the camps are set and what the needs are. They also know what supplies are available to each of them from the organizations currently on the ground. My advice to Claude was to help train the group doing the distribution on the use of the equipment before they deliver these units to families and groups. And then assist by providing the assets to them for distribution.
The rural situation remains the same. The need is for shelter, food, school supplies and the support for secondary medical, education etc. The bulk food supply is still available in most areas in the country. Our best help there is to fund the purchase of the basics while it lasts. This is what we have been doing and will continue although this can be very expensive and a little more difficult to manage.
I am expecting a specific request from our leaders for their regions that will identify the exact number of Schools, families and students we are talking about. The consensus is the rural areas have each grown by in excess of 20% since the earthquake.
The response to this has varied from funding bulk shelter and feeding camps, providing international NGO's that provide food and shelter with bulk food, to each Rotary family committing to look after a specific number of displaced families.
There is the potential for hoarding and other issues with this, but we are taking all precautions practical and possible at this time. Long term we will need to be better at this if we want to continue with it.
The long term response to this disaster is going to be an enormous drain on our human and financial resources for some time to come. I believe that we should begin discussing our role in the long term recovery and rebuild effort right away. I think our response going forward should be more and more in line with what we ultimately identify as our long term sustainable strategy. To do this we will need to get a sense very soon of where we are going to fit in the grand scheme of things in Haiti. Will it be an emphasis area, will it be communities, will it be in the planning? Who knows!
I have approached a well respected international investor and business man who has developed a sustainable settlement tradition in The Bahamas. He has a concept and some ideas that I believe could well be at the core of our response to the future development of Haiti. His concept addresses the creation of a sustainable settlement that takes into account social, financial, cultural, health, and environmental elements. I believe this is an opportunity that needs to be explored as a possible Rotary solution in its long term response. I will keep you posted on the progress of this idea when I hear back from those I have sent it to.
There are some immediate needs that will come up that we must still fulfill but we must also begin to recognize that response must move from the immediate to the medium and long term.