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I can't remember how long I have been here. I am not sure anyone can. There are no windows and the light is flat and grey. In the aviation office it is even worse - Paolo looks like he is about to collapse. He processes hundreds of request daily for a few dozen open seats and constantly answers calls from aid workers who are both hopped up on adrenaline and sagging under the weight of jet lag. Irving hasn't seen daylight in ten days and his skin is pale and his eyes bloodshot. Jayne finally took a break but only managed to pass out cold for 45 minutes. When she woke up she couldn't tell if she had slept for five minutes or five hours. The aviation guys in the office ask me what the airplanes they manage look like so I show them the photos I have taken on the ramp out at the airport. The only evidence in this office of the massive flow of passengers and cargo moving through Santo Domingo are keyboard clicks and muted phone conversations. You might call these people quiet heroes but none of them would ever accept that description. There are no heroes here - they are all in Haiti. Whatever we do we do for the people of Haiti and for our colleagues that continue to return on UNHAS flights looking shattered and haunted.
Numerous agencies are currently taking advantage of the humanitarian air bridge which United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has set up between Aeropuerto Internacional La Isabela in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The service is free of charge for all humanitarian workers. Passenger bookings can be made by emailing a completed Passenger Request Form to: UNHASPAX.Haiti@wfp.org. The team will send you a reply email confirming your booking.
Jan Steinvik and Jarno Nisula are two of the nicest UNHAS air operations officers you will ever meet. I had the pleasure of spending the day with them at the Aeropuerto Internacional La Isabela in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and watched as they booked in passengers from various aid agencies and then directed them to the de Havilland Dash-8 waiting on the tarmac. There were over a half dozen eager aid workers waiting to board the flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and even with their over sized baggage and pre-departure jitters the whole process went off without a hitch. It was clear form the start that these guys had been handling passengers for quite a while. Both are veterans of WFP air operations and have worked in numerous locations around the world. During their breaks they spent time talking about air ops in places like Nepal, Sudan and the DRC. Jan has been running operations here for approximately a week while while Jarno arrived only a few days ago to help carry the load. With the help of WFP Dominican Republic Logistics Officer Deyvy Roa, staff member Vinicio Santos and the very capable Ana Mendoza from aviation services provider Rep-Air Aviation, the team has been shuttling personnel and cargo into Haiti on three flights daily. The Dash-8 is a 35-seat twin prop passenger aircraft while cargo is transported onboard a de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou. The capacity of the Caribou is 2.7 metric tons and the planes configuration makes it perfect for short take off's and landings on remote strips. WFP is also operating an 8-seat Cessna Caravan out of Santo Domingo to help keep up with the high demand for passenger services. The excellent condition of the airport is another factor which helps the team complete their mission. A small office with internet connectivity allows to the team to work on site between arrivals and departures and the cooperative airport officials have made setting up an operation relatively effortless. There will always be challenges to setting up an operation in a new airport but if you ask Jan and Jarno how their now location compares to other places they have worked I am sure they would be very complimentary of their new location. All air services are currently operated free of charge for all humanitarian workers. Interested parties simply need to submit a request via email either to UNHASPAX.Haiti@wfp.org (passengers) or firstname.lastname@example.org (cargo). Special thanks to Jan, Jarno and the UNHAS teams in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Rome that are working literally night and day to make this mission a success.
We just received these photos from our Deputy Chief of Aviation, Philippe Martou, in Port-au-Prince. The images show an injured child being loaded onto WFP's United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) at the main airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was only the second flight for the 10-seat Cessna Caravan which is now operating as a humanitarian shuttle between Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The flight had arrived only a short while earlier carrying critical personnel and relief supplies. The shuttle will continue carry the wounded out and bring much need personnel and supplies into the country. UNHAS provides lifesaving air services for the entire humanitarian community. For more information regarding flight operations in the region please visit the Haiti update page on the WFP Logistics Portal.
We received these photos a short while ago from our Port Captain, Niels Olsen, who is currently on the ground in Haiti. Niels is working with various officials and agencies on the ground to determine the best course of action for returning the ports to operational status as quickly as possible. The photos show the devastation at the main port including the collapsed piers, toppled cranes and buckled roads. Even with all destruction Niels sounds hopeful that at least part of the port can be made operable fairly soon. When we have more information we will be sure to share it with you. In the mean time, you can find the latest logistics updates on our Logistics Portal. Please follow our latest updates on Twitter: @wfplogistics.
We just received these photos of the devastation at the port in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. These were taken moments after earthquake and show the damage that we have been highlighting in our latest logistics updates on the WFP Logistics Portal. Please be sure to check the portal for the latest logistics updates from Haiti. You can also follow us on Twitter: @wfplogistics You can see in this Google Maps satellite imagery the condition of the port before the earthquake: View Larger Map
Staff situation WFP international staff is safe and accounted for, while national staff is still being contacted to confirm their well-being. The WFP office in Port-au-Prince is in good condition, as are WFP sub-offices in Cap Haitian and Gonaives, both of which are operational. Infrastructure and Logistics Information Most UN buildings have collapsed. The MINUSTAH compound has been severely damaged and the UNICEF building is partially destroyed. In addition, government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the Parliament and several Ministries, have been seriously damaged. Most hotels have been destroyed. Security is of major concern and is expected to remain so in the aftermath of this disaster. The airport in Port-au-Prince is apparently open, but all flights have been cancelled. Roads from the airport to the city have been damaged. The airport in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is operational and flights are available. Roads from Santo Domingo to the Haiti border are operational, as are international airports and local ports. The WFP Office in the Dominican Republic has rented several SUVs to prepare for a large response out of Santo Domingo. 86 MT of high energy biscuits prepositioned in the WFP sub-regional depot in El Salvador. A chartered aircraft will as soon as possible transport these to Santo Domingo. The Logistics and ICT Clusters are already active in the country, but they will need to be reinforced.
I have worked with WFP Logistics for two years from 2006-2008. I was based in HQ, but did a couple of missions, to Mozambique in 2008 and to Myanmar later that same year. Last week I returned to WFP and to Logistics after a year and a half away, doing a Master's degree in Holland. Upon return, my boss, Peter, asked me to write a post on what it was like to come back, what remained the same and what had changed. This is that post. I'm going to take my cue from an email that Peter sent to colleagues here in WFP Logistics, announcing my return. He started with a quote from the Eagles: "Welcome to the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." That is quite an accurate description of what it is like around here. Once you get a foothold in this department and this organisation, it is really hard to sever those ties. And, when you come back, you realize that you didn’t really leave, you just checked out for a while. It would actually be interesting to see how many people that leave humanitarian organizations end up returning at some point later in their careers. My bet is that it would be a majority. So, what are my observations of the past week? There are a number of things I immediately noticed. The most striking of those was how little things seemed to have actually changed. Ok, a few aesthetic changes have been made to the building, quite a lot of faces are gone because people have changed duty stations, while other people are new since I left. But the atmosphere of the place, the esprit de corps if you like, remains the same. And, as before, we still seem to be in the middle of a never-ending cycle of improvement projects. Women in Myanmar. Copyright: WFP It is fun to see how projects I remember being initiated that are now fully implemented. However, it is frustrating to see how other projects that were initiated and that should have been started, are still struggling to really take off. In spite of all the energy that has been put into those projects, they are still not quite where they ought to be. It makes you wonder if the efforts were worth it. That is a thought that has come to my mind a lot during the past week. We do make a serious effort to renew our way of doing business but are our efforts to improve worthwhile when some projects take so long to translate into real time improvements in the field? Or, are our struggles to modernize actually undermining our core task - to bring the proper good to the right place at the right time? My humble take on it is that we should be cautious not to resist using available means to help us do our job, in a better and more efficient way, just because implementation sometimes requires radical change. Some of our projects might fail, and some might take a lot longer to complete than what they should, but that is not a reason to say that we shouldn't have started them in the first place. What's important is that the inspiration to initiate change is a sincere interest to get better at our job because we think that the job in itself is important. I think, or I choose to believe that, for the most part, that is the case around here. That's the constant that hasn't changed much since I left; the esprit de corps that makes this place a meaningful place to be. Once you've partaken in that spirit, that desire to do a good job, it is really hard to let go. You get addicted. Or, as the Eagles would have said – you can check out for a while, but you can never really leave.
The Somali region of Ethiopia is not an easy place to work. Clan disputes, banditry, searing heat and endless miles of harsh terrain make it one of WFP's most challenging missions. Food distribution in the region would be all but impossible were it not for a fleet of ailing, decades old trucks that are a key part of WFP Ethiopia's operations. The FIAT N3, which the locals call "entre", was built by the Italian motor group FIAT for heavy commercial work. The locally owned trucks are usually purchased from regional transporters and then leased out to larger charter companies for commercial and relief operations. Since the drivers are from the Somali region they are familiar with the roads and terrain. Also, because they are locally owned the potential for the vehicles falling prey to bandits and random attacks is quite low. Finally, the regional government is in favor of WFP using them in its operations since the business created goes into supporting the local economy. One of the major drawbacks to using such vehicles is there age and declining reliability. The ingenuity of the drivers and mechanics keeps them running but days on the road in tightly formed convoys take their toll on the half-century old trucks. Normally, such unreliability is not a major factor in the supply chain but due to a recent upswing in the level of violence in the region government escorts are no longer allowing the most dilapidated trucks into convoy. The wariness is justified as one broken down truck necessitates leaving behind 6-8 armed soldiers to protect the vehicle. The soldiers themselves can then become targets and, for the military, this is an unacceptable liability. As long as WFP is tasked with delivering food in the region, over 150,000 metric tonnes between October 2008 and December 2009, they will need a trucks that can travel in the region. The FIAT N3 has been a stalwart of operations for years but with its ever shortening lifespan it is clear that replacement trucks are needed. However, until those trucks become available the FIAT N3 will remain the backbone of WFP's operations in the Somali Region. Special thanks to: Bervery Chawaguta, Paul Karago, Sahid Haji and the entire WFP Ethiopia team!
Two months ago, two Russian built Mi-17 helicopters were rolled out of the belly of an IL-76 transport aircraft at Manila's international airport. They had been flown to help ferry food, relief items and personnel to areas hit by Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma only days earlier. The helicopters were quickly put into service and remained in service in support of humanitarian operations until recently. Before the aircraft could return home an assessment flight of the newly active Mt Mayon volcano in Albay Province was requested by the head of the Philippine's Office of Civil Defense (OCD), General Glenn Rabonza (Ret). Recent volcanic earthquakes and ash plumes had recently indicated that the volcano was once again returning to life and General Rabonza wanted a first hand look. On the wall of his office at OCD headquarters is a 1:50,000 scale map of Mt Mayon and the surrounding area. During a visit General Rabonza remarked to one visitor, while pointing at the map, "This is my nightmare". The helicopter, which was chartered by WFP's United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), departed from Villamor Air Base in Manila with a contingent of international and Filipino disaster specialists and headed up the lava slope toward the summit of the volcano. Little did anyone know that the flight would prove to be an incredibly valuable information gathering mission. Only days later Mt Mayon began spewing ash and lava in earnest and it is anticipated the volcano will erupt in the next few days or weeks. Approximately 48,000 people have now been evacuated to 29 evacuation centers far from the volcano's base and the information collected during the overflight has been an invaluable asset in the planning of the government's emergency response. Here is footage from the actual assessment mission: Since the raising of the alert level for Mt Mayon, the Logistics Cluster, for which WFP is the chair, has transported and erected a mobile storage hub at a nearby Navy base in Legazpi City, providing warehousing for relief items. It has also transported approximately 53 metric tonnes of government food and non-food items from Manila to the mobile storage hub. Last week 20 metric tonnes of High Energy Biscuits (HEB's) have been distributed to the evacuees with the first load arriving to cheers from the crowds of children in the centers. In preparation for the possible eruption of Mt Mayon the Philippines Government and international humanitarian community is working to position additional tents at evacuation centers in the region and to position latrines and additional water and sanitation facilities. With WFP resources at their disposal the Philippino Government and its people are now better prepared than ever to respond in the event of an eruption. Special thanks to Bernard Kerblat, Logistics Cluster and the WFP Philippines team!