Honduras Joins International Humanitarian Aid Effort for Haiti
By Kay Valle/Diálogo October 14, 2016Two natural disasters have struck the Caribbean nation in less than a decade. Still, partner nations have once again responded without delay, offering their assistance without regard to distance or resources. Honduras was no exception; it joined the rescue and humanitarian-aid efforts that Haiti is receiving after the recent onslaught of Hurricane Matthew. "The HONCON (Honduras Contingent) Mission will temporarily stop acting as a peacekeeping contingent in order to function as a rescue contingent," said Colonel Carlos Portillo, spokesperson for the Honduran Armed Forces. HONCON is the fifth peace mission that Honduras has sent to Haiti since 1995. It is composed of 47 members of the Armed Forces, including commissioned and non-commissioned officers and troops that had arrived in Haiti in June 2016 to work with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). "The contingent is a show of solidarity from the Honduran government to other peoples and governments. This (mission) allows our military, within the framework of international cooperation, to demonstrate the preparation, capacity and professionalism of its human resource," according to the Secretariat of Security’s report on October 12th. After Hurricane Matthew, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández instructed the proper authorities to form an aid commission and to provide assistance to the citizens of Haiti affected by the hurricane. "This cannot wait. I made the decision and gave instructions to the minister of the Permanent Contingencies Commission (COPECO). On Tuesday, October 11th, a plane with humanitarian aid was sent to our Haitian brothers," stated President Hernández. He also confirmed that the "HONCON peace force will join the effort to help the Haitian people." Col. Portillo explained that "the Honduran Air Force (FAH, per its Spanish acronym) was responsible for transporting the rescue mission." Specialized institution After the passage of Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in a decade, Haitian authorities expressed concerns over food security to the arriving international partners. "We are concerned with avoiding any possible famines in the country within three months due to the destroyed plantations," Haitian President Jocelerme Privert expressed to the media. A FAH aircraft transported the aid to Haiti, led by COPECO Minister Lisandro Rosales, who traveled with a committee of members from the Rapid Response Unit. Rosales explained to the media that the aid consisted of four metric tons of non-perishable food. "This will meet the needs of some 10,000 people, which will create a positive impact for approximately 2,500 Haitian families," he stated as he left for Haiti. The humanitarian aid package was prepared by the FAH and consisted of non-perishable food, basic medications, blankets, four metric tons of purified water, personal hygiene kits, and clothing. The aircraft departed from the Héctor Caraccioli Moncada Air Base in La Ceiba, department of Atlántida. "The FAH personnel have worked very hard to transport aid to the [COPECO] personnel and the media, which will keep us informed about the conditions of the Haitian people. We are thus bringing a helping hand to our Haitian brothers," stated Lieutenant Colonel Armando Martínez Rueda, commander of the air base. Minister Rosales told Diálogo that Haitian Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph welcomed his country's help. The meeting also served to demonstrate the solidarity expressed by President Hernández in the name of the Honduran people. Upon returning to the country, Rosales indicated that "the Honduran government's willingness to continue providing help to the people of Haiti is firm. The Armed Forces and other institutions like COPECO that are specialized in situations of risk are both well positioned to bring the needed humanitarian aid to the authorities and citizens of Haiti," he concluded.