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Aid en route to Haiti

MCC’s material aid gradually arriving in Port-au-Prince, despite challenges

By Linda Espenshade

Mennonite Central Committee continues to ship relief supplies to Haiti despite obstacles that slow delivery.

The Port-au-Prince port is still only operating at about 10 percent of the capacity it had before the earthquake, says Darrin Yoder, material resources manager. Alternate ports are available, but delivery is hindered because of distance or because the ports are not equipped with cranes to facilitate easy unloading.

Airlifts are prohibitively expensive, says Daryl Yoder-Bontrager, area director for Latin America and the Caribbean, so they are used sparingly. When MCC did use an airlift Jan. 24 to bring 70,000 pounds (31.74 kilos) of canned meat into Port-au-Prince, the shipment had to be rerouted to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, reportedly because of airport traffic.

The meat, which is canned by MCC volunteers, was transferred to trucks that were escorted to Haiti by United Nations (U.N.) personnel. Once the trucks reached the U.N. World Food Program warehouse in Port-au-Prince Jan. 29, more delays were encountered as trucks from many organizations waited, sometimes for days, to unload supplies.

The MCC Haiti staff was able to start collecting the meat  Feb. 3. From the shipment, Assemblée de la Grace, a Mennonite church on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, distributed more than 1,000 cans of meat to church and community members, many of whose houses were destroyed in the earthquake.

Five other MCC partner organizations distributed portions of the shipment. TIMKATEC, Timoun Kap Teke Chans, one of MCC’s partners, is conducting a feeding program for 500 children, some of whom were homeless prior to the earthquake and others who are newly homeless.

Meanwhile, two more shipments of meat, each about 35,000 pounds (15.87 kilos) are scheduled to arrive at the port of St. Marc, Haiti, Feb. 18 or 19. Trucks will transport the shipments three hours south to Port-au-Prince.

Relief kits, heavy comforters and other supplies also are on the way and will continue, according to Yoder. Already sent are two shipments that contain 2,688 relief kits, 4,591 comforters, various medical supplies, 250 tarps and 192 boxes of water bottles, flashlights and deodorant. Their estimated arrival dates are Feb. 20 and Feb. 28.

MCC also expects to supply about 9,000 tarps before the rainy season begins in April.

Previously, MCC sent 1,000 water filters and about $53,000 in cash to MCC Haiti and its partners to be used in the first days of relief efforts. The Mennonite churches in the Dominican Republic also donated and delivered food and supplies.
Twenty medical boxes, designed to supply 800 adults and children for two to three months, currently are being distributed in Haiti. Yoder says the Haiti Response Coalition, a new MCC partner in Port-au-Prince, was grateful for the supplies that “were exactly what was needed for the mobile clinics currently serving several camps of internally displaced people.” In addition, at least 5,000 first aid kits, purchased by MCC, will be distributed to families.

As of Feb. 12,  contributors have given an estimated $8.3 million, the majority of which will be used for rebuilding once the initial crisis has passed. An MCC assessment team is scheduled to convene in Haiti on Feb. 22 to evaluate the situation and make recommendations for ongoing work.

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