JDF soldiers leave for Haiti with relief supplies - United States provides the aircraft
Eight Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers left the island yesterday with relief supplies for Haiti on a United States-provided aircraft to offer assistance following the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The military aircraft flew out of Jamaica from the JDF air wing at the Norman Manley International Airport.
"The effort is a joint effort by CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) and ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management). Basically, what we are doing is getting supplies through CDEMA, and it is brought together by ODPEM, and we the JDF assist ODPEM with the logistics requirements and technical expertise for packaging, Customs, and all the requirements to get the relief supplies exported. There are eight soldiers from the JDF accompanying the relief supplies," the JDF's Lieutenant Colonel Mahatma Williams told reporters.
The JDF already has a senior officer on the ground in Haiti.
"He has been there for almost two weeks now," Williams said. "Basically, what their (the eight soldiers') job will be on the ground is to get these supplies to the different points of distribution. They won't be doing the direct distribution."
They will also be visiting damaged schools to assess and effect repairs.
The soldiers are expected to return to the island on October 26.
Items provided include food, many cases of both large- and small-size bottled water and diapers.
This is the first wave in the overall effort coming out of Jamaica.
United States Ambassador Luis Moreno said that once the need arises for US assistance in providing a plane for transporting relief items to Haiti in the future, it will be provided.
"Whenever the need arises, we will continue to do that. We are also supplying Haiti directly. I think the intense efforts have somewhat tapered off. Now, it's a matter of working with the material in Haiti. We are supporting Jamaican efforts - [a] joint operation with the JDF to bring some 20,000 - 30,000 pounds of food stuff and water," Moreno said.
He described what happened to Haiti as a serious humanitarian crisis, which he takes personally.
"It's a very serious humanitarian crisis, and we are doing the best to deal with it. For me, I can take it personally. I did six years in Haiti, in the mid '90s and the early 2000s, and Haiti has, unfortunately, been victimised through bad luck and through mishaps that happened through nature. They deserve our support," he said.