Thursday 8 December 2016

Aid going straight to victims as fears over security grow

Jason O'Brien in the Dominican Republic

Published 23/01/2010 | 05:00

GOAL CEO John O'Shea vowed yesterday that the aid organisation's warehouses in Haiti would be emptied in the coming days with the latest 27 tonnes of aid from Ireland to be distributed immediately.

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Aer Lingus and Goal were yesterday involved in the transport of medical and food supplies from Dublin airport to the Dominican Republic. The supplies are due to be transported overland to Port-au-Prince today because of continuing security concerns.

Some 15 doctors and volunteers were also on the Airbus A330 plane, with the crew volunteering their services.

"It's a collection of doctors, nurses, engineers and logisticians," Mr O'Shea said. "They'll be joining 26 Goal workers on the ground in Port-au-Prince and there's another 20 on their way.

"I'm going to assess the whole thing, to see what we can bring to it, and to work out the security aspect which is the most important thing.

"One of the things I'll be insisting on when we get there is that I want nothing in the warehouse. I want everything being distributed."

Mr O'Shea confirmed that the 27 tonnes were only a drop in the ocean, but paid tribute to the significant donations made by Irish people to the charity in the past 10 days.

"We will be accessing a lot of food from our partners -- the UN World Food Programme and the US government," he said.

"We bring in something like this by way of letting the Irish people know what we're doing, and as a bit of a feelgood factor.

"But they know the stuff that is going to make a difference is what we are going to be able to 'borrow' -- we subcontract, in other words."

The 27 tonnes of aid loaded on to the Aer Lingus plane yesterday included: six tonnes of water purification tablets, one tonne of medicines, digging equipment such as shovels, soap, and 150 tents and blankets.

Among those on the plane was Ann Bourke, a nurse-midwife who has been with the organisation for more than 30 years.

Originally from Co Kerry, she is based in Spain with her husband and two teenage children.

"I've been doing it since long before they were born," she said. "They are used to me at this stage, and know I always come back. But this trip is a bit daunting for them admittedly."

Coincidentally, as the group gathered at Dublin airport yesterday morning, a Haitian man -- now living in New York -- arrived in Ireland for a holiday.

Stephane Ligonde (28) said he had family who were injured in Port-au-Prince but also had relations in another town about two hours away.

"We're having sporadic contact with family there. Some individuals have been slightly hurt but otherwise they're doing well and we're just trying to find a way to reach out to them."

Conditions are worse for his relations outside the capital. "The support hasn't been able to get there yet," he said. "I'm getting reports that the bodies are starting to decompose and they're starting to get really afraid.

"They're sleeping outdoors at the moment. We were afraid of sending tents down in case there might be jealousy at people living in slightly better conditions. So it's difficult when you can't even offer this kind of help."

But he expressed thanks for Goal's efforts. "It's amazing that everywhere you go you find people who are concerned about other people," he said.

"We're all in it together."

Irish Independent

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