Colleague Roxanne wrote an excellent post about the complexity of the humanitarian operations in Haiti.
I can add this: I just got of the teleconference with our staff on the ground in Haiti. When the earthquake struck, they saw buildings collapsing all around them. Of the UN compound only one building remained half standing up. It took over a day before anyone had any overview if we accounted for all the staff, leave alone their family members, national and international staff alike.
While the enormity of the humanitarian needs was immediately clear, staff started to provide humanitarian aid, while still left with the question if their brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, aunts and nieces were ok.
Many people were buried under the rubble, many lost their houses, and our staff was no exception. Even up to today, some are still trying to find out if family members are still alive. Most lost their homes. This morning, one of our staff came with his child in his arms, a child he pulled out of the ruins of his house the night before. The child needed urgent medical care, care which was not available.
The office was evacuated, and they set up a temporary base in make-shift tents. Most of the staff still sleeps in the cars. Just as I left the office today, people were bringing me sleeping mats and mosquito nets, medical kits and first aid kits, for our own staff. Stuff which I will bring with me, when flying to the Dominican Republic tomorrow, stuff which will go onto the next plane out of Santo Domingo.
While this was still going on, food distributions, despite the logistical and security challenges and the uncertainty of their own well-being, went on. Aid was being delivered.
It is easy for us, remotely, in our comfortable chair, to judge if relief efforts are going well or not, if sufficient aid is being delivered. But it is, despite all odds, including staffs' own well being.
Their commitment deserves our respect. They surely have my respect. And I vow that the moment I hit the ground in the Dominican Republic, not only will I ensure my devotion to the delivery of aid, but I also vow I will ensure we take care of the well-being our staff.
Picture courtesy WFP/Alejandro Lopez Chicheri