Food Distribution Surge in Haiti

Jan. 30 I joined CL. Robin B Akin of the 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and General Luis R, Visot, Commanding
General of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command Army Reserves at an ROC (rehearsal of concept) meeting where plans
are gone over. Without desks or high tech equipment, the visual presentation consisted of papers on the ground held down
with rocks.The meeting was a rehearsal the day before the start of a food distribution surge. All the key figures from the
millitary side were there. It will be the largest food distribution to date in Haiti since the earthquake and will go on for 14
straight days at six different drop points in Port-au-Prince with a goal of giving out one million rations. The 82nd Airborne and
U.N. security forces will do crowd control. A large contingent of NGOs led by the WFP (World Food Program) will man the
distribution points.
On Saturday night I was driven to one of the basesthe 82nd Airborne has set up. It is on the grounds of a school that is
closed now. It took an hour to find the place, though it should have been a 15 minute drive. We only had coordinates to find
the place, and a couple of street names. A guard at the gate led me to the TAC tactical operation center) where I met CPT
Roberto Fonseca.
The grounds gave me the feeling l was on a set out of “Apocalypse Now.” It is terrain with tropical plants and tall mango
trees. The sounds of nocturnal animals fill the air. I unfurled a sleeping bag on a concrete walkway outside of one of the
classrooms to use as a mattress ( far too hot to get in it), arranged a mosquito net tent on top of it (mesh you can see
through supported by a wire frame), unzipped the tent and climbed in. I got three and half hours of sleep before waking to the
sound of hymns sung by displaced people living on the perimeter of the school. I lay in my self-contained see-through tent
listening for a few moments before getting out of it and heading to the rally point in the makeshift motor pool complete with
Humvees.
The group I rolled with, D/1-325th AIR, headed for Cite Soliel, the poorest area in Port-au-Prince. Earthquake damage there wasn’t as bad as
in the downtown; however the poor are even poorer here and growing more desperate. This distribution site was set up for
Samaritan’s Purse International. We arrived at 4:30 AM. A crowd formed immediately. The soldiers acted fast and rolled out
concertina wire, making a barrier to separate the crowd without tickets from the ticket holders who lined up against a stone
wall. Across from the line is a tent city that sprung up after the distribution site was established, making the situation more
volatile. By 6 am there were approximately 4,000 people at the site. As the morning went on, the line grew and the heat
reached over 100 degrees.
THe NGOs and the millitary made quick decisions to keep the line flowing when they sae that half the tickets were different
from the ones they gave out, and that men as well as women were on line (only women and children were supposed to
receive the rations and then share them with their families.) All tickets were honored and families were give a 25 kilo bag of
rice that most of them took away on their heads. Toward the end of the line, there was pushing and shoving and line cutters
the UN security forces dealt with forcefully. Thousands were still on line when the food ran out The distribution took place
without any major incident though the Haitian police took a few people away and many were taken out of the line with fake
tickets.
I will be going to another distribution insideCite Soliel, where I was told things were a little hairier. As people trust more food is
coming they become less desperate and the threat of incident dwindles. Aid has been a long coming for some people.
Moving supplies around is still a logistical nightmare. The Haitians I talked to were grateful, but were hoping for more than just rice.

To see new images of my work in Haiti book mark my flickr page- Here is a link to a set on images from Haiti http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliedermansky/sets/72157623308001766/
you can watch a food give away video clip here 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ87_gN0QLQ
you can watch CL. Robin B Akin talk about the mission here in video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdfoW74cRr0


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10 thoughts on “Food Distribution Surge in Haiti

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