Haitian aid stuck in Halifax

It could be months until supplies actually make it to the decimated country.

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Melaku Assefa (right) and members of Dalhousie's Model UN Student Society collecting goods that will take at least two months to be delivered to Haiti

Supplies intended for Haiti are piling up in Halifax, including blankets, water and perishable food items - and it will be at least two months before they make it to Haiti, according to UNICEF.

"It will be two to three months before those supplies are sent out ... the problem is trying to get in to Port-au-Prince," said John Humble, regional director for UNICEF in Halifax.

"Nothing in the docks is working and everything is going in by plane. The only way to get supplies into Haiti is to charter a plane to take stuff in. Right now we're on our 15th or 16th planeload going in."

In the three weeks since the disastrous earthquake in Haiti resulting in efforts from local organizations such as Salutary Angels and Dalhousie's Model UN Student Society, charities say no supplies have been shipped to Haiti from Halifax.

"All of the items are still piling up and we don't have a way to get them to Haiti," said Marie-Helene Beauboeuf, a Haitian native and the founder of the Halifax-based non-profit charity group Salutary Angels.

"We spoke to Air Canada and they told us that an Air Transat cargo plane left Saturday, but we missed it. We've contacted the Red Cross and Air Canada and they don't know what's going on. It's a mess. They just want to get us out of their hair at this point."

In addition to this hold-up, UPS representatives say they have still not been able to ship anything directly to Haiti and are holding even more packages destined for the country in Miami.

As the donations for Salutary Angels continue to collect in their Halifax office, the Dalhousie Model UN Society has turned to other organizations in an effort to get supplies there quickly.

The student organization managed to collect about $450 in addition to numerous boxes of supplies from donations on Jan. 19, as well as $750 through a fundraiser at the Grawood on Jan. 27.

Supplies sent to UNICEF

Local food service provider Aramark also donated 25 boxes of bottled water totaling $300, in connection with the student society.

After deliberating which organization would be able to get the supplies to Haiti most efficiently, the student society delivered its collections to UNICEF offices in Halifax last week.

"We managed to donate supplies to Unicef," said society member Melaku Assefa.

"They have shipping company connections and they're waiting to ship to Haiti. We don't know when exactly the supplies will get there and we're still worried they won't get there fast enough."

Humble says that money is a much bigger priority than supplies, because they can equip people directly on the ground in Haiti.

"It's never important at the beginning of a disaster to send blankets and stuff from here ... nobody needs water down there right now - it's provided by major agencies.

The first thing we do is provide water, food and protection. Later on when aid agencies back away people will have individual needs to be met."

Meanwhile, Salutary Angels has yet to get anything sent out after weeks of trying to get aid organizations, military and government operations to take their supplies.

"We're still waiting," said Beauboeuf. "I've been calling Oxfam and the Red Cross and they're not able to take anything to Haiti. We're trying to get supplies to Léogâne as opposed to Port-au-Prince, because the situation is much worse there."

"We're calling the military trying to find out when and if another ship to Haiti will leave. In the meantime we don't want to turn down items like medicine and blankets, because these items are very important."

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