Thursday, January 28, 2010

Call for U.S. to Prioritize Aid Delivery Over Military Deployment

Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte,

Haiti-Based Aid Groups, and Haiti Experts Call for U.S.

to Prioritize Aid Delivery Over Military Deployment


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 28, 2010 2:15 PM


CONTACT: Concerned Citizens and Groups Joia Jefferson

Nuri, TransAfrica Forum, 202.223.1960 x 131 Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460]


WASHINGTON - January 28 - A letter signed by

the Reverend Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover, Harry

Belafonte, Haiti-based aid organizations, and a number

of other NGO's and academic experts was sent to House

Democratic majority leaders and the Congressional Black

Caucus today, urging for the U.S. to prioritize and

improve coordination of aid delivery over military

deployment in Haiti. The letter notes that an

over-emphasis on security has meant costly delays in

distributing aid that have cost lives and led to

otherwise unnecessary amputations in some cases.


The letter, which is also signed by Haiti-based aid

groups including Haiti Konpay, Sustainable Organic

Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), and the Institute for

Justice and Democracy in Haiti, calls for an accounting

of supplies and personnel passing through

U.S.-controlled ports and airports, and commitments to

deliver aid to under served areas and persons and to

work with all governments and NGO's in doing so, as

reports continue to describe communities in parts of

Haiti that still await much-needed aid.


The letter follows:


January 27, 2010


Dear Members of Congress,


The outpouring of aid from U.S. citizens and their

government to Haiti in the wake of this immense

catastrophe has been important and welcome. However, it

is also clear that there have been serious mistakes

that have unnecessarily delayed the delivery of medical

supplies, water, and other life-saving materials.


Currently, there are major shortages reported of food,

tents, and water.


The most costly unnecessary delays had until recently

been in the area of medical supplies.


A team of volunteer surgeons including the incoming

president of the New York State Chapter of the American

College of Surgeons, whose deployment was delayed for

days by the U.S. military, reported that  "untold

numbers are dying of untreated, preventable infections [1]."


Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the world-renowned

humanitarian group is one of the organizations who had

tons of medical supplies re-routed because of decisions

made by the U.S. government.


"We lost three days [2]," Francoise Saulnier, the head

of MSF's legal department told Reuters Television in an

interview. "And these three days have created a massive

problem with infection, with gangrene, with amputations

that are needed now, while we could have really spared

this to those people."


Jarry Emmanuel, air logistics officer for the UN's

World Food Programme, noted on January 16 that "most

flights are for the US military [3]."


Perhaps the biggest mistake has been an overemphasis on

security, and the deployment of 20,000 troops, to the

detriment of delivery of life-saving supplies. This was

especially true during the first 10-12 days after the earthquake hit.


Although the situation with regard to medical supplies

has recently improved, there are now other shortages,

including food, water, and tents.


To avoid more unnecessary loss of life in the coming

weeks, we call upon the Administration to guarantee the following:


* A daily public accounting of the shipments of

materials and personnel that pass through the

Port-au-Prince airport or any other ports under control

of the U.S. military


* A public commitment to prioritize the distribution of

vital aid and supplies and personnel, including water,

medical supplies, food, medical personnel, and shelter.

 This means that these supplies and personnel must be

given priority over the deployment of any more military

personnel or equipment.


* A public announcement as to what measures our

government will take going forward to make sure that

the mistakes of the first two weeks are not repeated.


* A public commitment to deliver, water, food, and

other urgently needed supplies to rural areas and other

population centers that have seen little, no, or

greatly delayed aid


* A public commitment to ensuring that all survivors in

Haiti receive the necessities: clean water, food,

shelter, and medical care, and that all resources

received will be immediately deployed for this purpose


* A public commitment to work with all governments and

Civil Society Organizations that are delivering these

needed goods and services


While security can help to ensure a better distribution

of aid, the actual distribution of aid is most

important. While it is true that there have been some

supplies lost to looting, this is not nearly so

terrible as the loss of life and limb that has occurred

due to unnecessary delays. The over-emphasis on

security has been costly, and must not be repeated -

from now on the top priority must be the delivery and

distribution of the basic survival needs of the

population. The Administration must publicly reassure

the world that this will indeed be the priority going forward.


Sincere regards,


Harry Belafonte, Board of Directors Emeritus,

TransAfrica Forum


Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Founder and President,

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition


Danny Glover Chair of the Board, TransAfrica Forum


Brian Concannon Jr., Esq. Director, Institute for

Justice & Democracy in Haiti


Mark Weisbrot Co-Director, Center for Economic and

Policy Research


Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach Director, Mennonite Central

Committee, U.S. Washington Office




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