Tuesday 12 December 2017

Relief staff frustrated by lack of security

Jason O'Brien and Sarah Collins

IRISH aid workers in Haiti have spoken of their huge frustration as security fears prevent them from getting food and water to those in desperate need.

Darren Hanniffy confirmed yesterday that Goal has a warehouse set up to distribute materials, but that simply driving trucks into Port-au-Prince and handing out supplies is not an option.

"We have targeted an area which we are familiar with and are liaising with the leadership so that the distribution is organised," he said. "People are panicked, and if we just drive in the automatic reaction would be a mass movement to the trucks by people to clamber on and take what they can. That is the problem."

Goal's CEO John O'Shea said that aid agencies should not be concerned with these security issues. "The surgeon should not have to find the scalpel," he said. "There is a lack of a leader here. Security and access is what it's all about. Get the troops out of the airport. I have some of the most experienced people over there but I can't be sending them out onto the streets if their security cannot be assured."

Telecoms millionaire Denis O'Brien, whose Digicel telecoms firm is a major employer in the country, was on the streets of Port au Prince yesterday as police fired guns into the air to dispel looters.

He said the scenes in the Haitan capital as "absolutely quite shocking", and said at least eight of his employees are dead.

Digicel has been unable to get in contact with about 600 of its 900 employees. "There's nobody left untouched here because everyone has lost loved ones," he said. Mr O'Brien said he has been in discussion with the Irish house building charity Haven about how best the rebuilding operation could be focused, and he said that Irish construction expertise was badly needed.


In response, engineer John Hayes has set up a group called 'Engineers2Haiti'.

"The problems experienced by the construction community in Ireland with the loss of 100,000 jobs are nothing in comparison to the suffering of the Haitian people and present an opportunity for us to enhance our international standing as a compassionate people," Mr Hayes said. The group can be contacted on 01-6612321.

Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday has more than €400m in emergency and longer-term assistance to Haiti

EU Aid and Development Commissioner Karel de Gucht said the aid would include €137m for short-term needs.

"The lesson we have learned from the tsunami is that money is important, though it isn't the key issue," Ireland's Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power said.

Irish Independent

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