Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Special Briefing Skipper: Haiti crisis


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via The Cable by Josh Rogin on 1/19/10

Breifers: Captain John Kirby, spokesman for the Joint Task Force Haiti, Tim Callaghan, USAID senior regional advisor for Latin America, Rear Adm. Mike Rogers, director of intelligence for the Joint Staff, Captain Andrew Stevermer, commander of the incident response team for HHS.

  • The U.S. Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) have 506 people on the ground as of Monday afternoon, 71 successful rescues have been completed, 39 of them by U.S. personnel. Searches will continue through Tuesday. "Obviously we're getting closer to where you would go from rescue to recovery," said Callaghan, "But at the time the teams are in full rescue mode and still we are hopeful that we will still find more individuals."
  • USAID is bringing in such items as kitchen sets, water containers, water jugs, hygiene kits, emergency medical kits, etc. Over 130,000 water bladders for storing clean water have been distributed.
  • HHS has 265 people on the ground, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, said Stevermer. Four planeloads of medical supplies have reached Haiti will more on the way. There are also plans in formation to deal with the remains of the mass casualties, he said. There is a medical response team at the GHESKIO site, but not a full field hospital as the Israelis have set up.
  • "I would characterize the security situation in Port-au-Prince today as stable," said Rogers, explaining that the security situation hasn't hampered relief efforts. "We have seen nothing that suggests to us that we have widespread disorder; no sense of widespread panic. "
  • Callaghan responded to reports that distribution of aid supplies is being hampered by bottlenecks in the distribution process. Food is being given to the World Food Program for distribution, non-food aid to the International Organization of Migration, and USAID is also working through its traditional partners, including Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, CARE, etc.
  • Kirby responded to the complaints by some other countries that the U.S., which controls the airport area, is prioritizing security over humanitarian aid distribution in its management of the airspace. (The French government downplayed this issue Tuesday) "It is a sheer volume issue.  And there are more planes that want to land here than we can accommodate in any given hour," said Kirby, "But it's much more efficient than it was even just one day ago." The goal is to split the military and civilian landings 50-50.
  • So who is in charge of what down there? The UN is in charge of search and rescue and the U.S. military is operating in support on MINUSTAH. "The security and stability of Port-au-Prince is the U.N.'s responsibility and we respect that," Kirby said. There are 1,700 U.S. troops on the ground, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit will arrive soon with 2,200 Marines, but not all of them will go ashore. The Comfort hospital ship will arrive Wednesday.


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