U.S. Special Operations service members help set up road for success in Port-de-Paix
February 23, 2010
PORT-DE-PAIX, Haiti-A new system of cooperation is emerging in Port-de-Paix after U.S. Special Operations service members facilitated a meeting Feb. 17 between dozens of local government authorities, MINUSTAH and non-governmental organizations in the area.
According to a census conducted by the local government, the northwest region of Haiti where Port-de-Paix is located received an estimated 42,000 people after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince Jan. 12. The displaced citizens are living with friends and family in the northern coastal city.
"We initiated the meeting, but the U.N. and MINUSTAH did 90 percent of the work," said Capt. Fernando, team leader for the Special Operations service members in Port-de-Paix. "They called everyone to spread the word about the meeting and made sure local authorities and NGOs were all present."
The meeting focused on the current situation with displaced citizens in the region; how they've been helped and how they will continue to receive aid in the future. The Special Operations team also discussed the logistics cluster system in Port-au-Prince and how it can be helpful to their city.
"The consensus was, 'Let's get organized and start to get those resources here,'" the captain said. "It's going to be a work in progress, but at least they're getting started and they can grow this system in the future.
In addition to facilitating communication between MINUSTAH representatives and the NGOs, the Special Operations team has been assisting with the distribution of humanitarian aid since they arrived in Port-de-Paix Feb. 12.
For example, dozens of cots transported on an MH-53E Sea Dragon by members of Norfolk-based Navy squadrons HM-14 and HM-15 were delivered to the city Feb. 20. Groups receiving the cots included the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the Lashbrook Family Ministry and MOFAM, a Haitian-run women's shelter organization.
Chilean members of MINUSTAH and the U.S. Special Operations team members worked together to deliver the cots to the organizations, which are all providing shelter to displaced citizens who have moved to Port-de-Paix.
"We just provided the NGOs and local authorities the tools to continue this type of assistance, but now that they have the information and they're working together, they can carry on without us," Fernando said.