Civil affairs team helps strengthen U.N., Government of Haiti, NGO network in St. Marc
February 18, 2010
ST. MARC, Haiti-A Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command civil affairs team assigned to St. Marc is achieving success in strengthening the network of non-governmental organizations, MINUSTAH and Government of Haiti members that will continue to operate as the U.S. military reduces its role.
The team helped coordinate and facilitate meetings between the various organizations focused on humanitarian assistance after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Jan. 12.
"Our primary task was to be a facilitator to the system already in place that's going to mirror the cluster system in Port-au-Prince," said Capt. Valente, the civil affairs team leader.
The relationships formed in this network help humanitarian assistance more effectively reach the citizens of the coastal town, as locations with needs are linked to organizations with supplies.
"Ever since the earthquake, the Haitian people have noticed that changes are happening," said Charles Baunars, the mayor of St. Marc who has had numerous meetings with the civil affairs team. "The Government of Haiti is seeing what needs to change and changes are happening."
After the earthquake an estimated 25,000 people migrated to the center of the city, forcing the organizations to evolve the way they operate.
MINUSTAH representatives are still gathering information on the numbers of people who migrated to the outlying communes of the city.
"I hope it's going to strengthen our system," said Mario Rizzolio, a MINUSTAH representative, referring to the efforts of the civil affairs team to help gather information and communicate with the government in Port-au-Prince.
In addition to working with members of MINUSTAH and the local government, the team collaborated with NGOs at hospitals and camps of internally displaced persons to assess their needs.
Doctors from an NGO working in St. Marc expressed their appreciation for the civil affairs team's work to connect their organization with other agencies in the area.
"The U.S. military is an organization we know we can trust," said Terry Letsinger, an emergency physician from Temple, Texas volunteering in St. Marc. "They have been instrumental in setting up the network and dealing with other agencies-things we don't know much about as physicians."
JFSOCC civil affairs teams are also working to strengthen networks in Cap-Haitien, Hinche and Gonaives.