As announced, I was able to travel to Haiti yesterday and returned to Miami on the same day.
The purpose of the trip was two-fold:
1. Bring a team of medical volunteers and medical supplies to Haiti
2. Try to meet with Dr Claude Surena, the newly nominated “Health Crisis Coordinator” to evaluate the logistics of getting the medical volunteers and medical supplies from the airport to the most effective destination(s) in PAP, as determined by the Haitian Government.
We were able to accomplish the first goal, but I was not able to meet with Dr Surena. Our plane landed at 1:00 pm, but due to the congestion on the tarmac at the airport, we had to leave as soon as possible to allow other airplanes to come in. We took off from PAP at 2:00 pm without seeing any representative of the Haitian government, despite the fact that we had announced our visit.
Here are the logistical challenges I was able to identify during my brief visit:
1. When you get to the airport in PAP as a medical volunteer, there is no one to greet you
2. If you are not traveling under the banner of UM/Medishare, you’re on your own
3. There is a significant shortage of fuel in Haiti. Therefore, you cannot count on family members in Haiti to pick you and provide transportation
4. The UM/Medishare treatment center at the UN Headquarters in Haiti, located about a mile from the airport is full to capacity, and can longer accommodate additional medical volunteers at this time.
5. Medical volunteers would be most useful in other locations where their help is desperately needed, but they don’t know where to go or how to get there.
6. The security at the airport is under the control of the US Military. When the volunteers go to Haiti, and want to come back to the US, since they have no documentation that they are in the country as Medical Volunteers, there is no mechanism in place to differentiate them from the thousands of other individuals who are trying to leave Haiti.
1. A “Crisis Center” should be set up at the airport to welcome the medical volunteers and guide them.
2. There needs to be a method in place to identify the Medical Volunteers, to ensure that they are able to get back to the US.
3. The Haitian Government needs to identify the locations where the Medical Volunteers would be most useful, and provide transportation to and from the airport.
4. There should be also be a “Legal Disclaimer”, protecting NGO’s from liability, because they cannot guarantee the safety of Medical Volunteers while in Haiti.