x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Khalifa dispatches 50 tonnes of emergency aid to Haiti

Fifty tonnes of emergency supplies are being sent to Haiti as part the UAE's humanitarian assistance for the earthquake-stricken country.

ABU DHABI // Fifty tonnes of emergency supplies are being sent to Haiti as part the UAE's humanitarian assistance for the earthquake-stricken country, although bad weather in Europe and heavy air traffic prevented the national search and rescue team from joining the effort to find survivors. The supplies will be sent by the Khalifa bin Zayed Charity Foundation on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, reported the state news agency, WAM. The report did not say what the supplies consisted of.

Sheikh Khalifa also directed the Red Crescent Authority and other humanitarian agencies to organise assistance, WAM said. The Office for the Co-ordination of Foreign Aid was also yesterday gathering information on Haiti's most-pressing needs. The information will be distributed to local donor organisations. The UAE Urban Search and Rescue Team was ready to leave for Haiti within four hours of receiving the call for assistance, but with bad weather in Europe and heavy air traffic, it would have taken 48 hours to reach the Caribbean nation, said Major Mohammed al Ansari, the UAE liaison with the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.

"The answer we got was that there was no chance," Major al Ansari said. "Otherwise we would have been ready to fly in four hours. Our main target is to arrive very quickly, but unfortunately Haiti is very far away from us and mostly European countries are mobilising." As per the UN advisory group's guidelines, teams must be ready to deploy within 10 hours after a request goes out. They then have 12 hours to reach the disaster area.

Major al Ansari said securing a plane to transport the team and their tonnes of equipment was not the issue, but the route meant that they would have arrived three days after the disaster. Typically, the work of search and rescue teams lasts for seven days. "We are of course very disappointed we couldn't help," he said. "When you have the equipment, the manpower and the resources, and you are not able to make it is a horrible feeling. It was out of our hands."

The UAE team last month received UN accreditation for globally accepted standards in search and rescue, joining an elite group of teams from 16 countries. Meanwhile, the humanitarian organisation Dubai Cares said it was trying to identify "effective interventions". "Dubai Cares is gravely concerned about the situation on the ground and is in very close contact with its extensive NGO partner network ... to ascertain the most effective way forward to address the situation regarding the emergency educational needs of the children of Haiti," Tariq al Gurg, the organisation's chief executive, said in a statement.

zconstantine@thenational.ae