Black men wearing orange vests with the HI logo on the back load cardboard boxes onto a sailboat in Haiti

Overcoming security barriers to deliver aid

With security risks still high across Haiti, Humanity & Inclusion Project Manager Mats Baradeau explains how the organization’s logistics platform overcomes challenges to deliver aid by land and sea.

Q: What are the benefits of Humanity & Inclusion’s transportation project in Haiti?

The main role of the project is to offer free transportation to organizations delivering humanitarian aid to the South of the country. Haiti is an island with many land constraints, especially for transportation. So, we propose maritime and road transport to reach the South, which was devastated by the earthquake and blocked from aid by these transportation constraints. The shipments mostly contain emergency items such as shelter kits or food such as rice, for example. We have also used our own services for Humanity & Inclusions’s distributions of hygiene kits and technical aids like wheelchairs, walkers and crutches for people with disabilities or those injured in the earthquake. The greatest added value is that we ensure the transport, no matter what, even when some areas are nearly impossible to cross.

For the maritime approach, we are partnering with a local NGO called Aquadev, which ensures the quality of the boats we choose and helps guide us. We also train the captains and crews of the sailboats to increase their capacity outside of this service and support Aquadev in continuing their own trainings. Thanks to this, they have acquired many skills, and we have the guarantee to charter a sailboat and ensure our maritime transport.

We currently have 14 sailboats and hope to reach 20 within the next six months. Through this platform, not only will we have delivered aid to the earthquake affected regions, but we will have trained 20 sailing crews that will be able to continue after the emergency.

Q: Six months since the earthquake, is the project still necessary?

Launched in early July 2020, the project is certainly still needed today, as all indicators show that it serves an important role for all transportation and humanitarian partners in Haiti.

After the earthquake, the volume of transport needed exploded. It went from two or three boats per month to 15-16 transports per month, or 3-4 per week. So, we had to become very efficient and make sure that the protocols and processes were adapted to this huge increase. The requests still remain high due to the ongoing access difficulties.

Today, Martissant, an area of Port-au-Prince, prevents transportation to the south of Haiti because it poses significant security risks linked to violence. Currently, it is impossible to go by road to the impacted areas of Jérémie or Les Cayes from Port-au-Prince because you must pass through Martissant, where the situation is too uncertain to be considered safe. Jérémie is even further blocked because its only access point, a bridge, is now broken. Despite being one of the major sites of NGO intervention in the South, our maritime transport is currently one of the only solutions for accessing Jérémie.

Since the beginning of the emergency response, we have supported nearly 70 shipments totaling around 650 tons of humanitarian goods, over 600 of which were via maritime transit.

Q: What are the greatest difficulties for the project today? 

The blocking of the road through Martissant has caused operational and budget problems. Previously, we had docks next to Martissant for loading and unloading ships for our maritime transport. Given the current situation, we were forced to find solutions to load our boats elsewhere. We found other safer docks, but they are much further from Port-au-Prince. Today, to transport to the south, we must first drive two hours to the north of Haiti to load the boats before taking them to the final ports.

Using sailboats for transportation is generally much more eco-friendly than other forms of transportation. But, this is now an emergency project. If we ship goods to Jérémie without a motor, it could take three or four days. With a motor, it only takes one. For urgent items, we have no choice but to use the motor. However, when we have less urgent requests, we can just use the sails and have a much lower environmental impact, which is a key benefit of shipping by sea.

Q: What have been the greatest successes so far?  

Since I have been here, I have received only very positive feedback. We’re nearing our 100th transport for the project since it began. We haven’t had any problems with losing merchandise, the service is free, we don’t have any limit on volume, and the majority of deliveries are completed in less than 72 hours. Many of our partners are really happy because we’re responding to their emergency needs, and our feedback is really positive so far. The goal is for that to continue.

I’m very lucky to have this team, where everyone is incredibly motivated, highly skilled and autonomous. That’s something I noticed immediately. They send me information when needed, but they know what they’re doing. They are very implicated in their work, they do it well, and they’re happy to have this job. One of my staff members is from the South and has his family there. He experienced the earthquake, and he sees the need first-hand. He is proud to participate in a project where we help organizations respond to the emergency.

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