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Summary of French humanitarian aid for Haiti

Publié le January 14, 2010
Statement by the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry Spokesman
Paris, January 15, 2010

Our actions focus on two priorities with regard to the tragedy in Haiti: the relentless efforts on the ground in terms of emergency assistance and the normal mission of the ministry which relates to the situation of our compatriots living in Haiti.

In addition, there will be a meeting in Brussels between Mr. Moratinos, the Spanish Foreign Minister, representing the presidency, and the Ministers responsible for Cooperation, specifically aimed at reviewing the situation in Haiti. Of course, France will actively participate in this meeting.

I would like to reaffirm the overall details of France’s emergency humanitarian relief for Haiti:

1. A 71-strong detachment from Martinique and Guadeloupe, tasked with helping in the search for casualties and provision of assistance to the stricken people, broken down as follows:

- 7-member Crisis Situation Support Mission (MASC), including Lieutenant Colonel Cova, head of the detachment;

- 60 fire-service personnel (28 firefighters, a doctor and nurse from Martinique, and 27 firefighters, a doctor and nurse from Guadeloupe). The two search-and-rescue and rubble-clearing units will have 3 sniffer dogs;

- 5 SAMU [mobile emergency medical service] personnel.

This detachment also includes 18 gendarmes responsible for the Embassy’s security.

They arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday, in two stages.

2. A second detachment of 67 soldiers of the Brignoles FORMISC [armed forces emergency services] and a 5-member Crisis Situation Support Mission including 2 communications specialists arrived here on the ground yesterday around midday.

3. A third 70-strong detachment from Ile-de-France [Paris region] and the south of France tasked with deploying an advanced medical post and 10 mobile medical teams, left yesterday evening to arrive on Friday morning at 3 a.m. (local time).

This detachment also includes 24 sécurité civile [emergency services] personnel tasked with supplying water for up to 20,000 people a day, 11 gendarmes to ensure the security of the detachments on the ground and 5 Germans from the THW (Technisches Hilfswerk) to assist their nationals.

4. A field hospital is en route to Port-au-Prince. It left France in two planes.

5. So nearly 400 sécurité civile personnel will eventually be in Haiti with several dozen tons of equipment. They will be working in close cooperation with the teams deployed by the European Union and United States.

6. As regards the situation of the French community, around 300 people out of the 1,200 French nationals in Port-au-Prince are gathered at the French Embassy and Residence, heavily damaged by the tremor, and the French lycée (intact). Active efforts to find around 60 French nationals are continuing.

Injured people and families with young children are continuing to leave the country on transport mobilized by France. 150 of them arrived in Paris this morning on two planes, one from Guadeloupe (54 people, including 45 French nationals) and the other from Martinique (96 people). Italian, German, Colombian, Burundian, Canadian and Belgian citizens were among them.

7. Bernard Kouchner has announced the appointment of Pierre Duquesne as ambassador responsible for interministerial coordination of aid and reconstruction in Haiti. The Minister has also decided to strengthen our diplomatic and consular staff in Port-au-Prince by seconding several more officials to support the exemplary action of our ambassador in Haiti, Didier Le Bret.

8. Finally, I want to remind you that a hotline has been set up for the general public in Paris: 33/1-45-50-34-60. The crisis center has received nearly 7,500 calls in two days. A second hotline has been set up for the general public: 33/8-10-00-63-30.

I would like to reaffirm the key priorities of our actions. There are two missions: firstly solidarity, emergency aid, humanitarian assistance for our Haitian friends and secondly, of course, the situation of the French community.

It is on that basis that we need to organize ourselves. As Bernard Kouchner reaffirmed a short while ago, this is the emergency period. […] The emergency period consists of planes flying backwards and forwards between France, Martinique or Guadeloupe, and Port-au-Prince.

The emergency period also represents the objective set by the President of the Republic in terms of deploying 400 French sécurité civile [emergency services] experts and rescuers on the ground. Many of them are already there. Bernard Kouchner stated a little while ago that their work was helpful and effective, and that reinforcements will arrive over the next few days.

The emergency period is, in addition, a chance to treat the wounded. This is what we are currently doing by sending emergency medical teams and by dispatching a field hospital on a cargo aircraft which we are planning to set up outside our embassy in Port-au-Prince, and which will allow us to treat the injured on the ground as quickly as possible. Since the infrastructures have for the most part been destroyed, this field hospital will be particularly helpful.

The emergency period is also a period of coordination and organization. […] That is why we are working in coordination with our European partners, of course, and our American partners. You know that Bernard Kouchner and Hillary Clinton have talked with each other and the President of the Republic spoke with President Obama yesterday evening. Of course, it is important that our actions are as coordinated as possible, whether in terms of preparation, implementation or work on the ground, at all levels, between Paris and Washington, between our embassies in Port-au-Prince and between the crisis centers at the Department of State and the Quai d’Orsay.

The emergency period is also a period of security. You know that isn’t just a particular characteristic of Haiti, it’s something that happens very often in such circumstances: the emergence of situations of insecurity in the city of Port-au-Prince. That’s why we have deployed a certain number of gendarmes, in particular to ensure the security of our embassy.

The fact that this is an emergency period should not keep us from going ahead with preparations for the next step—to the contrary. The next step is rebuilding. Rebuilding means first, as the President said, holding a conference in the very near future with the United States […] as well as Brazil, Canada, France, other European countries of course, and the UN in order to swiftly deal with the problem of Haiti from a new perspective: that of rebuilding and sustainable development. We’re working hard on this. It will also be one of the topics discussed on Monday in Brussels, and it is also with this in mind that the foreign minister decided to entrust our ambassador, Pierre Duquesne, with the brief of preparing this conference.

Finally, how are we organized, in concrete terms? First, there is the Crisis Center of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. It has two characteristics. The first is that it operates 24/7. And the second is that as soon as we learned of this catastrophe, we increased its personnel immediately so that it could, on the basis of carefully established protocols, fulfill the two main missions I mentioned earlier.

The second pillar, of course, is our embassy. Our embassy, which from the beginning has done a remarkable job in particularly difficult conditions. It’s not easy to operate when you have no phone, no electricity, when it’s nearly impossible to move about and when part of the embassy has been destroyed in the earthquake. I truly want to applaud our colleagues there, as Bernard Kouchner has done. The foreign minister decided to reinforce the team working with our ambassador, Didier Le Bret, and that is why several employees of this ministry left in one of the rescue planes yesterday evening, to reinforce our embassy.

The second thing that was done since yesterday evening was to strengthen our system of telecommunications with Port-au-Prince, which obviously improves our effectiveness, the circulation of information and allows us to know much more in real time and to identify needs, enabling us to take decisions much more effectively.

As for the injured, let me remind you that we have already conducted several evacuations, using the planes making rotations between Martinique and Haiti and Point-à-Pitre; these aircraft are bringing in rescue workers and supplies to Port-au-Prince and transporting back to Martinique those who were injured or traumatized by the earthquake.

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