The Caribbean Bands Together for Haiti
By Dialogo April 01, 2010
The Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, moved into high gear following Haiti’s
earthquake to support a member state through the deployment of search-and-rescue
missions, military assistance and medical personnel. The Caribbean Disaster
Emergency Management Agency, a regional response mechanism for natural disasters,
based in Jamaica, coordinated the effort.
More than 300 personnel from 11 CARICOM member states and associate members
composed the contingent in Haiti, in a united response to the urgent needs of the
Belize offered clothing, food, and military manpower; Barbados sent military
personnel; Grenada and Guyana sent monetary donations; Saint Lucia and Trinidad and
Tobago sent aid in the form of services; the British Virgin Islands sent a
search-and-rescue team; Bermuda placed aircraft at the Community’s disposal; and
Jamaica deployed security personnel, searchand- rescue teams, doctors and relief
supplies within 48 hours of the earthquake.
In an interview with Jamaica’s The Sunday Gleaner newspaper, Jamaica Defence
Force commander in Haiti, Maj. Jaimie Stuart Ogilvie, said his troops were making
“sure that we have the right persons here for the long haul to continue the relief
as long as we can.” Jamaica’s contingent also included medical teams delivering
supplies to some of the hardest-hit areas. “We have been able to impact positively
on people’s lives,” Dr. Derrick McDowell, head of the medical delegation, told The
Sunday Gleaner. “No life has been lost in our care. Whatever we have been doing is
being well done and is being done carefully. Were it not for us, more lives would
have been lost,” he added.
Continuing aid to Haiti includes emergency response coordination, medical
assistance, and engineering assessments with relief efforts extended to locations
outside the capital. As reconstruction gets under way, CARICOM is shifting its focus
to longer-term contributions to assist the health sector and technical assistance
for relief distribution systems.
During a Mexico-CARICOM summit in February 2010, Roosevelt Skerrit, prime
minister of Dominica and CARICOM leader until July 2010, reiterated the community’s
commitment to rebuilding Haiti. “First on our agenda is Haiti. We want to ensure
reconstruction goes beyond immediate efforts. We have an opportunity to bring about
the renaissance of Haiti, not just to return to where we were before the disaster
struck,” Skerrit said.
Cuba had a large medical team of more than 300 doctors working in Haiti prior
to the earthquake and quickly sent extra personnel to the devastated nation,
including Haitian doctors studying in Cuba, in addition to surgical staff and
supplies to set up field hospitals. The doctors treated more than 13,000 patients
and performed hundreds of surgeries, working tirelessly around the clock during the
first days and weeks following the quake.
Recognizing the valuable contributions of Cuba, the U.S. State Department
offered to provide medical supplies to Cuban doctors working in Haiti. “The United
States has communicated its readiness to make medical relief supplies available to
Cuban doctors working on the ground in Haiti as part of the international relief
effort,” U.S. State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said.
During a conference of the Ibero-American General Secretariat in February
2010, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo
Valenzuela, praised Cuba for working with the United States in providing relief to
Haiti. In a rare gesture of cooperation between Washington and Havana motivated by
the urgency to save lives, Cuba allowed U.S. planes, including military aircraft, to
fly over Cuban air space for medical evacuation flights from the U.S. base in
Guantanamo in southeastern Cuba, thus shortening each flight by 90
Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, played a key role in providing
immediate disaster relief. The country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with
Haiti, spared no efforts and urgently rushed food, water, supplies, rescue teams and
medical assistance to the earthquake victims. Relief centers for refugees seeking
aid in cities and towns across the border were also quickly established to tend to
thousands of people in need.
In addition to direct aid to Haiti, the Dominican Republic also helped many
countries and organizations that could not gain direct access to Haiti due to the
heavily damaged airport, roads and port facilities near the quake-affected areas.
The Dominican capital of Santo Domingo and towns near the border with Haiti became
the staging grounds and logistical bases for hundreds of relief missions, as well as
for the international press corps covering the tragedy. More than 150 troops were
deployed along the border to work with a contingent of Peruvian peacekeepers from
the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, to help ensure the
humanitarian relief effort from the Dominican government was sent over.
John Holmes, director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, praised the vital contributions made by the Dominican Republic in ensuring
that humanitarian aid reached victims, during a meeting with Dominican President
Leonel Fernández in February 2010.
CARICOM Member States:
Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada,
Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent
and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago
CARICOM Associate Members:
Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos