Mr. Duguid: Welcome to the journalists who have joined us. We have with us today at the U.S. Joint Information Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Colonel Rick Kaiser, K-A-I-S-E-R. He is the Commander of the 20th Engineering Brigade, Joint Task Force, Haiti.
The Colonel is here to talk to us about restoration of essential services in Haiti. Colonel, would you like to make a few remarks?
Colonel Kaiser: Absolutely. Thank you.
First I'd like to thank everyone out there for giving me this opportunity to discuss today's topic. I'd like to start by saying that if you've been down here and you've seen the devastation to Haiti and the suffering of the Haitian people, you'd understand how important a mission we have, and that I in particular have of trying to restore essential services to help relieve the suffering of the people of Haiti in conjunction with the government of Haiti and other international organizations.
What my role here is, is to help coordinate the engineer effort across all the military services. Although I am in the Army, I'm working very closely with the United States Navy, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps and the Air Force to make sure all those military forces are working together.
What our goal is to, like I said, restore essentially services. The top five that we look at are ports, airfields, roads, the electrical grid, and water. As we go forward today I'd be happy to field any questions on those.
I think I want to make one very clear distinction, as well. The military forces, especially the engineers and others, are not here to do any reconstruction. That is not our mission. We are here to restore essential services. And more importantly, we are here to help non-governmental organizations provide the relief to the people of Haiti as quickly as they can and as soon as they no longer need military assistance, that would signal success on the part of the military.
Like I said, I have forces from every service working underneath me to include divers, people who specialize in power plants, people who specialize in structural analysis, general construction engineers, and others along those technical lines.
With that I would like to open it up for any questions.
Question: [Kevin Brooks]. I'm actually an engineer for a construction company out of West Virginia, and my question to you was who do I need to get in touch with to come in and help with the aid?
Colonel Kaiser: Thank you for that question, sir. What I would tell you is there are many venues you can talk to to come and help. I would say that USAID is one of the organizations that is helping to coordinate all the efforts. One of their big roles is to do just that. What I would say is if you get with organizations like USAID they will help get you in the right contacts.
All I do is put a requirement out there if I need contract work done, and good folks like them will help find companies like you to meet that need. So if you get your name out on the network I'm sure they can help you, sir. I hope that answers your question.
And you can go to the USAID web site which is www.usaid.gov.
Question: Thank you. I'm currently registered through the USAID.
Colonel Kaiser: Then I'm sure they'll be in contact with you when and if they need your services, and I appreciate your assistance.
Question: Thank you.
Question: [Carol Rosenberg, Miami Newspaper]. Colonel, thank you for doing this.
How much electricity has been restored in Port-au-Prince? And can you say how much of the port is functioning at this point?
Colonel Kaiser: Those are two distinct topics. Let me touch on the first one in terms of the electric grid.
First I think it's very important that everybody understands that the Haitian electrical grid is not what you would compare it to a regular electrical grid back in the United States. It's not as robust, certainly, and there have been a few problems with it in terms of its maintenance and output.
Before the earthquake hit, the electrical grid in Haiti was capable of producing about 170 megawatts of electricity. Now that's what it was capable of. It didn't produce that much. In fact the electric production before the earthquake was sporadic.
As a result of that you will find, if you look around the city at night, that a good 30 percent of the population or more has their own generators because the Haitian electric grid had routinely been a little bit suspect on occasion.
With that being said, the EDA, the Electricite d'Haiti is not yet producing electricity. Here's where we're going. My engineers have helped them assess the key infrastructure. Specifically we were recently out at the Peligre Hydroelectric Dam and found that to be structurally sound and capable of producing electricity.
Here shortly the Dominican Republic contractors have been putting up numerous poles to restore electricity. And I think within the next two days that you'll see the Electric Company of Haiti put out a small quantity of electricity to one of the villages. We're a couple of weeks away from having them back at their original capacity, though. I hope that answers the that portion of your question.
I will pause before I go on to the ports, if that's okay, and see if that answers your question.
Question: I guess my question was, so a third of the city has electricity, but it's all coming off of generators?
Colonel Kaiser: That's correct. That's typical, and that's normal here. In fact if you fly in at night, you would almost think there wasn't a problem, and that's because of what I said earlier.
Colonel Kaiser: Now, in terms of the ports. The main port here in Port-au-Prince, if you're not familiar, has two main piers -- the North Pier and the South Pier. The earthquake completely demolished the North Pier, so it has sunk to the bottom of the ocean and it is clearly no longer useable.
The South Pier lost more than half of its length to the earthquake and it's also plummeted into the ocean. The remaining portion of the pier had to be surveyed. What we did to assist was Army divers in conjunction with Navy divers went in and did side scan sonars of the piers, and hydrographic surveys of the bottom of the port to determine its depth. With that data we were able to send it back to Naval Facilities Engineers, design experts, who told us exactly what that port could carry and where we had to offload it.
Specifically, what we found after the earthquake was the South Pier was capable of accepting 125 tons, but it had to be offloaded at Pier number 22. Let me tell you what's happened since.
As you know, Haiti continues to receive fairly strong aftershocks and the series of aftershocks we've had have caused additional damage to the piles, and those are the things that the pier sits on top of. In fact recent diving surveys found that chunks as big as six to eight feet have fallen off some of the piers. As a result, we've had to close down port operations on that pier.
So once we can get better technical data and an assessment from the Naval Facility Engineers, I'll be able to tell you how much load we can carry on that pier and when we can open it.
With that being said, the Navy is using what we call light arrays, or basically barges that can still bring equipment into the port and offload. I don't have the tonnage that they can move at my fingertips, but suffice it to say equipment can still come into the port. It's just at a reduced capacity.
I hope that answers the question.
Question: Thank you, Colonel.
Question: [Ken Delanian, USA Today]. Thanks a lot, Colonel.
Two questions. One specifically on water and sanitation. What was the situation before the quake? What's the situation now? What are you guys doing on that?
Then a broader question, where are you getting your tasking? Are you consulting with anybody from the Haitian government? Or is it USAID? Who is telling you this is what we need to go look at, here are the sections we need to concentrate on?
Colonel Kaiser: That's an excellent question. Let's look at water first.
The water distribution system in Haiti, again, is a little bit different than what you would expect back, in the United States. What you normally find is a series of public wells that the families go forward to and draw water to for their personal use, and in many cases their drinking water is purchased at small local stands. What I'll tell you right now is there's over 80 functional points of water being used for distribution right now. With the superb work of USAID they've contracted over 130 water trucks to help distribute water where it's most critically needed.
What we've also determined with the water system is that there are five major leaks in the water distribution system. This is a recent discovery. What we're doing about it is we're going to send my technical engineers to go survey the damage and find out rapidly we can fix it. Those five pipes that are leaking are not causing any failures of the system, it's just causing a little bit of a loss of water and a lack of pressure that make topping off the trucks a little bit slower.
So water distribution is going very well, and I think if you would talk to the non-government organizations they will tell you there's not a water problem. In all of my trips through the city I would agree with that. So there's not a water problem. I think that's going well. Again, the way water is distributed to the population here is different.
Let me touch on the question of where we get our missions from, if you will. We work very very closely and primarily with USAID as the government's executive agent for this type of service. Our Joint Task Force has a Humanitarian Assistance Coordination cell.
That is where all of these projects come in. Those are tied specifically back to the United Nations and the government of Haiti. The government of Haiti puts its priorities in.
Now if USAID can handle the problem or knows somebody that can handle it best, that's where it goes. What our role here in the military to do is to try and fill those gaps where only the military can help out, and that's what we've been doing.
The work that we've done, and if you listen to what I said earlier about where I've been working on the electric grid and over on the hydroelectric dam, those are all purely targeted to help the government of Haiti get back on its feet and serving its population again.
I hope that answers the question.
Question: Yes. Can I just follow-up and ask about the sewage and sanitation system, such as it was? Was there much of one before? How damaged was it?
Colonel Kaiser: Another good topic. Again, if you haven't been to Haiti you have to look at their sewage and sanitation system much differently than you would in an urban American society. Now I'll tell you this, what you'd call a garbage truck, the refuge trucks have been running fairly regularly and they don't necessarily use trash bags here. In local communities, Haitians will generally take their debris, refuge, and they'll pile it in the street, and then as the garbage trucks come by, that's where they collect it.
That system is operating. I can't tell you at what capacity it is operating, but I will tell you that in my journeys throughout the city I have seen at least, every time I've been out I have seen two garbage trucks doing just that.
The other thing I would tell you is that during my trips through the city I have not noticed large quantities of debris, which means that the system, in my view, must be working.
Now that's different than the rubble from the buildings. That's a different topic. So in terms of sanitation systems, that's what I would tell you.
Also, Haitians use different types of latrines. So if you had a structure, a building that had public sanitation systems and the building was not damaged, the system is still working. For buildings that were damaged, I cannot give you an estimate on how many of those sanitation systems are working. But for the average Haitian who uses a slit trench or other means for sanitary care, I would say that in general those systems are operating the way that they did before.
I think that's the best answer I can give you on the sewage and sanitation system.
Question: Thank you, sir.
Question: [James Fisher Thompson, U.S. State Department].
Colonel, this is Jim Fisher Thompson with America.gov, the State Department's web site. I have a question about SAR, the search and rescue phase.
I understand there were some engineers involved in that phase. I don't know about clearing rubble to get to the sites, or actually working n the sites with SAR teams. Specifically there's been some mention about the Hotel Montana SAR attempts there. Could you comment on that at all, engineer involvement?
Colonel Kaiser: If I can comment on the engineer portion of search and rescue operations in general, and I won't make any comments on the Hotel Montana because I personally have not been involved with that particular operation.
What I can tell you is this. We have structural experts that have come in from numerous government agencies to include United States Army Corps of Engineers. These are civilian experts that the Corps of Engineers takes on, and many of them have tremendous experience from 9/11 and doing the search and rescue and recovery operations from that catastrophe we had.
What I would tell you is that these structural experts have been going around doing many things, and not just the search and recovery effort when we were in that phase. What these structural experts have been doing is going to key facilities on behalf of the government of Haiti and determining the structural integrity of the building. A good example would be the university hospital. We sent these experts out to look at the hospital because Haitians still needed to receive care. And there was clearly some signs of damage. As an engineer I'd tell you some damage looks worse than it is, and some damage that looks minor can be catastrophic if it's in the wrong sort of load-bearing beam. So my experts have been going around and determining the structural integrity of these buildings.
What we found in the hospital, for example, there were just a few buildings that had damage that we had to condemn it, about four buildings that needed minor repairs to be back to its original condition. So that's what they have been doing in terms of assessing critical infrastructure for the government.
In terms of search and rescue, we leverage their expertise in these operations, and their role is to really help identify on the site where recovery operations are going, which pieces or components need to be removed next. If you've ever been on one of those sites you'll find out it's extremely dangerous. If you remove the wrong beam or the wrong section of concrete you can cause the entire remaining structure to collapse. So that's their role in those operations.
I hope that answers your question.
Question: Yes, thank you.
Question: [Peter Green, Bloomberg News].
I just wanted to clarify what you said about the water. In other words, there are no areas of the city where there is a shortage of drinking water? People are no longer dying of thirst? Is that what you were saying?
Colonel Kaiser: I cannot say for 100 percent certain that there is not somebody there who is not in need for water. But what I can tell you is USAID and others have aggressively been going throughout the city and working with the local Haitian governments to find those isolated pockets where people still need water. If you can imagine 130 trucks distributing water all over the greater Port-au-Prince area, I just can tell you that from my trips through the city, I have not seen that at all. I've seen numerous water points that have been in operation. And there are no lines, quite frankly. That's a good indicator. If there is no line, then there might not be a shortage, especially if there are a lot of people around.
What I will tell you is this. A lot of the military forces are still going to some of the remote areas and trying to get access in to find if there are any areas like that. I'm just not aware of any that I know of. That's the best I can do for that, sir.
Question: In terms of sewage for the same thing. There was a lot of talk of cholera-type epidemics that dirty water, people living in these camps one on top of the other with urine and feces leaking into either drinking water or just into the general living environment could cause epidemic. Is the sewage situation under control in that sense, sir?
Colonel Kaiser: I would tell you, again, USAID and others have been working very hard to prevent that. I can't tell you the medical statistics, but I have not heard of any outbreaks of something like that. So what I would tell you is I haven't heard that that's a problem.
Let me tell you what is going on, though. Many of the non-governmental organizations and the folks from the government of Haiti are going around and looking at these camps where folks are assembling. Where those camps do not have those facilities like I said, a slit trench or something like that for sanitary purposes, they're either contracting out or coming to the military for help. So again, we're working very very closely through our Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center to determine if we need to go do that.
I'd also like to point out that there are many reports that public showers are now operating. That by itself is a very positive sign. And personal hygiene and showering is one of those things that helps reduce disease.
I hope that answers your question, but we're working very closely to make sure that sanitary facilities are available for those who have lost their homes.
Question: Can I just follow that up with one last thing about roads into the country, sir, from the DR. Has there been any movement, because the port is in such poor shape and the one airport is in such poor shape, has there been any move either to open up any of the other airports or to improve the roads in from the Dominican Republic?
Colonel Kaiser: Let's look at that one a little bit closer. The airport here in Port-au-Prince actually has a much greater volume than it did before the earthquake. That's precisely because you have a tremendous amount of humanitarian goods and services that are coming in through the airport.
Before the earthquake, what you would see is a heavier load of tourism and commerce. So the through-put daily at the airport is much higher than it was before the earthquake.
If you look at the Dominican Republic, there are obviously some supplies flowing through there. A good example would be contractors who have already signed up to do some of the work, get a lot of their supplies through the Dominican Republic. In fact this morning we had a gentleman come in with a truckload of supplies and we specifically asked him how the road was coming from the Dominican Republic, and his response was there were no problems, and he made it here without any restrictions. That's contrary to what we've heard about some rubble in the road. What I'll tell you is this, we need to do an on-the-ground reconnaissance and assessment of that and if there is rubble in the road we will see what we can do to work with others to clear that.
Right now there is no major restrictions that we're aware of, and it's confirmed by many of those who live in Dominican Republic and come to Haiti routinely.
I hope that answers the question.
Question: The purpose of the question was there seems to be a bottleneck at the port and the airport, the State Department said earlier a thousand flights of relief aid are still waiting to land in Haiti. And you said the only way to get supplies from ships to shore is through [inaudible] which is a slow process.
Is there any consideration being given to a reengineering kind of thing, to bring stuff in to a port, say in the Dominican Republic, widen the road, improve the bridges, so that you can have a good two-lane road or three-lane road going from the place that aid and supplies come in to where it's needed?
Colonel Kaiser: That's part of an overarching structure. As the government of Haiti itself starts to look for alternatives as well, those are more along the lines of a reconstruction effort.
The military really, we won't delve into the reconstruction piece. But as the government of Haiti looks to see if that's a worthwhile venture, normally what they would do is look for third party donors to help with that effort.
I will tell you there are other ports, like the Port of Varreux, that are operational as well, that can accept goods and services. One briefing I heard this morning, the airport is not stocked up. That's something that is being managed very closely. So that's the best I can do on that one, sir.
Mr. Duguid: I'd like to simply address, since you mentioned the State Department.
The number of planes waiting does not indicate a bottleneck. As the U.S. Commander of the airport told me, there are more planes waiting over Chicago on a given day than there are over Port-au-Prince. The number of planes waiting is simply good air traffic control management and the flights have to be scheduled in order to land safely and unload their cargo in a timely way.
I know there have been stories out there that somehow because planes have to either be diverted or the flight has to be rescheduled that this means that there is a bottleneck and a supply shortage on the ground. That's not the case. Supplies are getting out. There are well over 100 distribution points for supplies at this point. The UN, particularly the World Food Program, has organized distribution clusters. The material comes in at the airport, it is cataloged and distributed through UN agencies to their clusters, the NGOs go to those clusters and then return to many different local areas where they have the networks to distribute the goods and the material.
So the airport, I can't make this point too strongly. The airport is functioning at a level that it was never intended to function; it's functioning extremely well; and it has functioned with air traffic control that's done by guys standing in the grass with radios and they have had no incidents of accidents or problems with the planes and the landings.
Question: I guess, Gordon, since you brought it up, that wasn't the question. The question was whether there's enough capacity to receive all the aid that's needed right now because the seaport is not functioning and there are a thousand flights that say they would like to have delivered their goods to Haiti already.
So the question would really be --
Mr. Duguid: Then I stand corrected. We do note that the port is operating at a limited capacity, while the airport is operating over capacity. Also Cap-Háitien is relatively unaffected and there have been goods that have come through there. Jacmel is relatively unaffected and there have been goods that have come through there. Those two ports, however, are not located near the epicenter. Goods coming in there are not as close to the supply networks as the port of Port-au-Prince would be, so you're quite right in saying that until we get the port up, we would not be able to have 100 percent capacity going.
Question: The only question I was asking from the beginning was, is there enough capacity to bring in the supplies that are needed? And if not, what's being done about it. That was the question at the beginning. So I'll ask you, since you brought it up. Is there enough capacity to get in all the supplies that are needed?
Mr. Duguid: The answer is that we have enough supplies that are needed on the ground. There isn't capacity to bring in all the supplies that are being offered. I guess that's where our thinking is not meeting up.
There are thousands of offers of supplies coming in. There is no shortage of supplies on the ground. Do we have the capacity to take in everything that's being offered right now? We do not. And part of the reason is because the port is not operating at full capacity. Are there shortages on the ground because we lack that capacity? My information is no.
Question: That was the question. Thank you very much.
Question: [Sil Inoc, Inside Edition].
Going back to the capacity of the airport, how many flights have been turned away due to airport capacity issues?
Colonel Kaiser: Unfortunately, that's not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is the airfield itself and the capacity of the pavement to take on additional flights.
What I'll tell you is what we mentioned earlier, that that airfield is operating at many times over its designed capacity and it's held up extremely well. The only damages that occurred to the airport were at the passenger terminal. My structural analysts have already gone out and assessed those buildings and have determined what needs to be done to fix them. So once this heavy relief effort is over and the government of Haiti is ready to go back to normal operations at the airfield and have civilian traffic and visitors coming in, they'll be prepared to do that.
Mr. Duguid: We had Colonel Buck Eldon here who is the Commander of the Airport at the moment, and that transcript is available on, the State Department web site, I believe, has it. I know they sent it out. But if you would send an email to the following address: HaitiJIC@USAID.gov we'll return that transcript to you. I believe the colonel gave a figure in that transcript that I can't recall, so I don't want to guess.
But we do want to talk about the term "turn away". No aid flight has been turned away. That is no aid has gone back to its country and said we don't want it. Flights have been diverted because there's not the capacity to land any more planes than they're landing right now, and they've been asked to come back in a different order in some cases. That is because of a number of reasons, and we've spoken of those. I won't belabor the point.
But if you would send us an email at that address, we will send you the transcript of that briefing where the colonel gave specifics to your question.
Question: What was the colonel's name again?
Mr. Duguid: Buck Eldon, B-U-C-K-E-L-D-O-N
Question: Some flights are not being diverted, though. Is there a priority list?
Mr. Duguid: Yes, there is. And it's worked out by the Haitian government in consultation with the air traffic controllers. It is very much the case that there are three levels of priority for flights that land at the airport.
The first priority goes to the largest planes. They not only carry the most cargo, but they are the most difficult to handle on the ground, and therefore the air traffic controllers want to deal with them first.
The second priority goes to perishable goods. So if you have a very small craft carrying a very large cargo of plasma, that gets priority because it has a perishable cargo.
The third priority is one of safety. Because of the number of planes coming in and the need to sometimes circle the airport, if the plane is low on fuel, that gets priority, too. We don't want anyone having fuel problems over the airport.
So those are the three general priorities. The Haitian government is the one that says we need wheat right now, so if people are bringing in bags of wheat, that's the plane that gets priority along with those other three. Or if we need medical supplies right now. And the advice that the air traffic controller gives is along the lines of those three conditions I gave you at the beginning.
My final question is, this sounds silly, but I know John Travolta has flown three flights, at least three into Haiti. What is his priority level?
Mr. Duguid: I don't have that information. I know that he's been allowed to land, but so have others including Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. They have to file a flight plan and request permission just like everybody else. So his priority may have been very low. I don't have the information for you so I shouldn't speculate. But he had to go through the same process that everyone else has to go through.
The problems that we had early on were indeed problems of violation of Haitian sovereignty where nations in their desire to help were actually sending aircraft into the national airspace without filing a flight plan. No nation on earth would tolerate that. It's a very dangerous thing to do. But it was understandable given the goodwill that everyone wanted to show.
Now everyone is filing flight plans. Everyone is following standard air traffic control processes, and Mr. Travolta had to that as well.
Question: If I send an email to the HaitiJIC@USAID.gov, would they be able to give us what his priority was?
Mr. Duguid: No, they wouldn't. That would be something that we'd have to go to the Haitian government and the airport for. I can certainly tell you that the general guidelines I've given you are about the best we can do.
Question: Thank you.
Question: [Dan Deluth, AFP].
I missed part of the briefing, so I apologize up front. But if you could tell us what the situation is with the roads in and around Port-au-Prince and what are the kind of major tasks you're looking at to try to clear some of those roads and/or rebuild or restore some connections for T-links or bridges?
Colonel Kaiser: Good question, sir.
In general the roads are in very good condition. Let me qualify that.
There are three major bridges around Port-au-Prince that I sent my bridge experts and structural analysts to go check. All three of them showed minor damage, two of which did not degrade the capacity of the bridge, and one of them which did degrade the capacity of the bridge. That one in particular, we have since recommended reducing the amount of traffic at one time on the bridge. So what we've recommended is that only one truck go across it at a time, and that would be a truck capable of carrying about a 20 foot container full of goods. So even though the bridge has some minor structural damage, it's still well capable of carrying what you would call a semi trailer with goods on it.
In general terms the roads have held up fairly well. Now let me qualify that. When you're in town, when you're in downtown Port-au-Prince and some of the more populated neighborhoods where some of the structures were not built to proper codes, that's where the greatest damage is. What you'll find there is there has been a great degree of rubble that originally was clogging up the roads. But what you'll also find is that many of the neighbors have pitched in and cleared those roads by hand and created large piles of rubble on the side of the road.
So in most of my travels through the city, you have very good access, as you did before. A little bit more constricted because of the piles of rubble.
One of the programs that we're looking at is USAID and others are looking at ways to help put Haitians back to work and clearing roads is one of those tasks that would be appropriate for this sort of thing.
What my military engineers are doing is very very minor rubble removal. Where we would do that is if, it's only to help gain access into a remote area or a neighborhood where some of the non-government organizations cannot reach. So if there's an area that a road is still clogged because of debris, what we'll do is remove that so that aid organizations can get those water trucks and get food deliveries up to those people who need it most. That's pretty much our role.
As I said earlier, I don't know if you were on, but the road to Dominican Republic, although there's been some landslides reported and minor sort of debris in the road, the road is still quite passable and heavy trucks are capable of doing that.
So the roads do need some work, but it has not significantly slowed down the movement of commerce or people. You can tell that just by standing in front of the U.S. Embassy here and seeing the volumes that are on the roads.
I hope that answers the question.
Question: Yes. One extra question.
Have any of your teams suffered injuries or experienced injuries trying to clear the rubble and go about your work?
Colonel Kaiser: No, mine haven't. And I just want to make a distinction. Military engineers are not, if you can visualize this in your mind, what we are not doing is we are not physically going in with bulldozers and backhoes and power shovels and removing houses and trying to help find people. That's not our role, and quite frankly, the equipment we have is not capable of doing that. What we are doing is with our small equipment like I just mentioned, is really trying to gain access into those areas that need it.
Other things that we're capable of doing, and we will assist USAID and those who ask for help, is we can help dig some of the sanitary systems in camps where people live and do those sorts of projects.
So nobody's been injured, and it's because we really have been trying to focus on those things that are within our military capacity.
Question: [Ken Delanian, USA Today].
Gordon, I just wanted to follow up on something you said. It's pretty important. You said there's no shortage of supplies on the ground because of the airfield capacity. Of course we've all seen reports of Brazilian troops using teargas on Haitians struggling to get food aid. NPR this morning reported that only able-bodied men are getting access to the food and that women and children are having trouble getting it.
So what you're saying is that's not a factor of a lack of food on the ground, it's a distribution issue?
Mr. Duguid: There are many distribution issues, that's correct. There are supplies on the ground. Of course we continually need to replenish those supplies and I don't want to come off saying that everything is wonderful in Haiti. That's not the case.
In some distribution areas there have been problems, and you saw the Brazilian incident. There has been a similar incident in another area that escapes me, but it was in Port-au-Prince as well. It seems that part of the problem is distribution points where there are a single distribution point in a large population. And I know that people are working to try and come up with a better solution on how those go.
What we have found, what particularly the U.S. military tell me they have found is that if the population understands that there is a process and that they will be served, it's just a matter of waiting, then the distribution goes smoothly. If for some reason the population in that area and rumors spread rampantly in people who have been traumatized and who don't have regular access to information, believe that either the supplies or limited or that one group of people is going to get them over another group, then you have problems.
So yes, there are problems of distribution. The problems of supply are, I think, minimal. As the port opens up the problems of supply will really become negligible. But I don't want to give the impression that the distribution network is all that it should be. You can find pockets, particularly near the epicenter, and in outlying areas, where we have yet to reach the population with any regularity and we understand that problem and we're working to try and improve that.
Question: You were talking about the logistics of offloading the stuff from the airplanes. CNN a few days ago reported a story, I don't know if you saw it, where one of their reporters walked in, sort of picked up a bunch of medical supplies, and then walked it out to a hospital that badly needed it and sort of was saying hey, there's stuff piled up here at the airport, it's not getting out, we're not really sure who's in charge of logistics. Now that was three days ago. Has that situation improved? And who is running the logistics operation of offloading those supplies?
Mr. Duguid: The supplies are offloaded and the U.S. military that is supervising the offloading of supplies -- I take exception that a well-known news presenter with a full camera crew felt that he was invisible. But I'll leave that to the television.
There are supplies at the airport. The airport is secured by U.S. troops. We have had no incidents or looting or theft at the airport. I do believe there have been some attempts at theft at the airport, that have been thwarted. That was very early on in the process. The airport is secure.
So my caveat in all of this, of course, is that we don't believe that we yet are doing the best job of distributing all of the aid. We do have to get out to more remote areas, and we do have to try and make those supplies available amongst vulnerable populations.
But the supplies that are sitting out at the airport aren't just sitting there, it's not the same bunch of supplies. The supplies are continually replenished. As soon as they come in and are offloaded they are then moved on through the UN supply system. So we are getting those things out. So the impression that you walk to the airport and you see several pallets of material there, that that material may look the same as the material yesterday, that's only because you're in a medical supply area where medical supplies look the same. It's quite likely it's a very different shipment of medical supplies.
So although there was that report and the incident of course did occur, I don't agree with the conclusion that A, the supplies are at risk; and B, the supplies aren't getting out.
Question: Gordon, I just want to clarify, I think the intent of that was not to suggest that there was as security problem, but was to suggest hey, if I can go and deliver these supplies to a hospital that badly needed them why can't the UN or USAID or whoever. The illustration was hey, there are supplies sitting there, we don't know who's in charge of distributing them, we know what the system is but we're going to try to take some and take them to this hospital. In that case there was apparently a need for them. So is it the UN that's in charge of the logistics of that, of getting the stuff to these distribution points?
Mr. Duguid: Yes, but the point is, that we're not trying to deliver medical supplies to a single clinic. We're trying to deliver supplies to 100 clinics, and you can't do that by walking off the tarmac with a plastic bag full of medical supplies. The UN is in charge of the distribution. I walk that back. The Haitian government is in charge of the distribution system and they are supported by the UN. The World Food Program in particular has a big say in the distribution process, but the Haitian government has identified where the four clusters should be. The Haitian government works in many cases directly with the NGOs on where those other hundred and more now, my information on a hundred is probably a couple of days old, where those distribution points should be. The NGOs have been working in particular neighborhoods, particular regions, for years. They know the local supply network. They know how to get things in to the people.
Are there still clinics that lack supplies? Yes, there are. Are there people who are still hungry? Yes, there are. Do people need medical attention? Yes, they do. Fewer need it today than yesterday, and we certainly believe that fewer will need it tomorrow than needed it today.
Question: Thanks very much.
Question: [Gina Chung, Wall Street Journal].
Colonel, I had a question regarding the restoration of the consular services. With so many Haitians living in these tent cities outside, what does the restoration of the power grid or other things need, not only because going to these tent cities it's pretty pitch black, dark at night. A lot of them can't really afford, even groups, generators. So there's not really any electricity around.
My second question is, what capacity does the Haitian government have to help in these efforts to restore essential services when so many of their own government employees were killed or injured in the earthquake? Many of these ministries have collapsed or are totally destroyed. So what role are they playing, and how are they going to restore electricity, get water out, [inaudible]?
Colonel Kaiser: Let me if I could start with the last portion. The ministries have been very very active, and if I go back to the electrical grid in particular, and the Electric Company of Haiti, we have worked hand in hand with them and they have been a very very key player in how to go about restoring the electrical services.
And again, everything from, they need help determining the integrity of the lines from Port-au-Prince up to the Peligre Hydroelectric Dam up north, and they couldn't do it themselves. So under their inspiration and everything, we coordinated for helicopters that my analysts could fly and take video pictures of those lines and actually get up and inspect the dam as well.
That's the same situation you'll find with the water, the roads and the airport. All the ministers have been very active in how we go about restoring services. So that's what I would tell you.
The other piece is, as you know, many of the government buildings, like you've said, have been damaged. What we've done to try to help the government get back on their feet, if you will, to have good places to work, is to analyze some of those structures so that the government can determine which ones they want to occupy again and which ones they shouldn't. So we've been very active in that.
What good does that do to the average Haitian who's a displaced person, a little collection where they're gathering and at night it's dark? I'll tell you that with the roads open, if they have places to go and a means to get there, they can do that. With the electricity, once that's restored, if the government of Haiti wants to provide electricity to that particular gathering place, they can do so.
Water is probably the easiest one to describe. With the water system operating just about at its pre-earthquake capacity, we're able to provide water to those folks.
So although it seems like a little, it means a lot.
Now I'm not the one who's coordinating the efforts for these areas where folks are gathering. I'd have to defer on that. But as the infrastructure becomes more capable, I think what you'll find is others stepping up to help find shelter for these folks and making their living conditions better.
While we're here, if there's any way that we can help, and we get requests from USAID and others to provide some sort of support, we've been actively doing that. So it's not a lot of consolation, but we're doing our best to provide relief where it's needed and try to get a new sense of normalcy back to the people of Haiti.
Question: Gordon, I just have a quick question for you. I have been emailing the Haiti Joint Information Center email address, but I was wondering if you had any other direct way to get a hole of the USAID folks here in Port-au-Prince for a meeting or an interview? It's been a little hard getting a hold of people down here.
Mr. Duguid: I will hand that to my USAID colleague who is also in the room. Gina Jackson will answer.
Ms. Jackson: Hi. Just to clarify, that email address goes to only one computer. As you can imagine, there's a lot of technical --
Question: I know.
Ms. Jackson: -- as soon as we possibly can. If we haven't answered your particular question, please email it back. We don't have phone capability really, and so email is the best route. But like I say, it's going to one desk and we're funneling it out from there as quickly as we can.
Mr. Duguid: Just please be persistent. We are trying to get to those.
I think that was our final questioner. I will repeat the email address for those of you who might have missed it earlier. If you do have a press inquiry for the U.S. Joint Information Center in Haiti, the email address is HaitiJIC@USAID.gov.
Thank you all for your participation today. I thank Colonel Kaiser for his time. And we will announce our next telepress conference in the manner that we've been doing so far by media announcements over several different channels. We may be changing our format somewhat in the coming weeks, but we will make all of our speakers available on a regular basis and we'll let you know when and where by the email announcements.
Thank you very much, and goodbye.
- Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at the Center for Global Development
- Briefing by Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas C. Adams, USAID Acting Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Mark Ward, and Center for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Manoj Menon on Strategy for Addressing Haiti Cholera Outbreak
- Press Briefing by U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten and USAID/Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei
Last updated: September 26, 2012