A Relief Effort With Heart and Courage
By Dialogo April 01, 2010
Immediately following the earthquake, Costa Rica sent search and rescue
teams, engineers, doctors and emergency disaster relief experts to Haiti. The Costa
Rican Red Cross launched a nationwide campaign to collect donations in cash, food
and supplies. The donations, destined to aid more than 300,000 Haitians during the
next three years, will assist with the construction of temporary shelters, repairs
to water and sanitation facilities and in providing medical care for earthquake
Angeline Darthlelemy lay trapped beneath concrete and metal without food and
water for more than three days. The 3-year-old was staying at the Fontamara
orphanage when the earthquake hit. After she was trapped for 84 hours, firefighters
from El Salvador finally managed to pull her to safety. The next day, these same
firefighters saved another life when they pulled 55-year-old Jean Deni Voltaire from
the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH building. He had been
trapped for 115 hours.
When they finally returned to their country, these firefighters received a
hero’s welcome. This ceremony “is a tribute to our heroes who have served their
country honorably with their acts of courage,” said Humberto Centeno, El Salvador ’s
interior minister and head of the civil protection agency.
The government of El Salvador had a police contingent working with MINUSTAH,
and it sent additional police officers to support their efforts in the country
following the quake. The country also sent relief supplies including food, water and
Food supplies, building materials and search and rescue teams were deployed
by Honduras to Haiti.
The rescue teams used specialized electronic equipment to locate survivors,
working alongside emergency relief personnel sent from El Salvador and Guatemala.
Supplies were sent to the Dominican Republic, the initial staging ground for the
relief operation, before being distributed to earthquake victims in the neighboring
The Honduran government also made donations to Haiti through the Red Cross
and sent medical personnel.
At the time of the quake, Panama held the interim presidency of the Central
American Integration System, the regional disaster response center, and it
coordinated government relief contributions to Haiti from all Central American
member states. An emergency operations center was established to manage the regional
humanitarian assistance effort and to assess the priorities for distributing aid.
Panama also sent rescue and medical teams and donated food and other relief
The search and rescue unit from the Civil Defense Brigade worked around the
clock digging through the rubble in Haiti. The team rescued one survivor who had
been trapped for 75 hours. The second survivor the unit found was trapped beneath
the rubble of a four-story building for 83 hours. After working nonstop for 18
hours, the brigade finally freed the victim, who was given the proper medical
attention. That brigade would go on to save two more lives due to their tireless
“This gives us an idea of the quality and courage of the Nicaraguans and the
heart they have to give in these difficult conditions,” said Gen. Mario Perezcassar,
Nicaragua’s Civil Defense chief. The Central American country also sent a large team
of army doctors and surgeons, who treated more than 12,000 earthquake victims.
The medical teams worked alongside counterparts sent by Cuba, Venezuela and
Guatemalans understand the pain that Haitians are going through, having
experienced an earthquake that killed more than 23,000 on Feb. 4, 1976. Guatemalans
donated food, water, medicine and relief supplies to distribution centers collecting
goods to send to Haiti. The government also opened its doors to allow 13 Haitians to
stay in Guatemala on humanitarian visas.
As one of two nations in Central America with troops deployed as peacekeepers
for MINUSTAH, the government immediately responded to the crisis by sending
additional troops to support their contingent in the country. Guatemalan search and
rescue teams deployed to Haiti were instrumental in finding survivors among the
Relief contributions made by private citizens, businesses and several church
organizations were channeled through the National Coordination Center for Natural
Disasters, where tons of food, water, medicine and tents for temporary shelters were
amassed for distribution. Guatemalan aid to Haiti was distributed locally in
conjunction with MINUSTAH personnel on the ground.
Guatemalan Military Police Adopt Aid Role
Guatemalan military personnel have been with the peacekeeping forces in Haiti
since 1998. When MINUSTAH was created in 2004, Guatemala was designated to form a
special 115-man contingent of military police in charge of discipline for all the
military contingents present in Haiti.
“We have jurisdiction throughout the country for incidents, accidents, and
enforcing regulations, as in any army, only that here our army is the U.N.,” said
Col. Moisés Vinicio Lima Conde, the Commander of the Guatemalan contingent.
Col. Conde said the tasks of his team were doubled after the earthquake
because in addition to the security they provide to MINUSTAH’s forces, assisting
with humanitarian aid also became a part of their role. “Despite the increase in the
burden, we do this work with a great deal of enthusiasm because we know that the
people need it. For example, we are practically the official escort for the hot-food
program organized by the Dominican Republic. Through this project, between 1,500 and
3,000 hot meals are served to the needy in Port-au-Prince every day,” Col. Conde