By Terri Moon Cronk
Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2016 — The 400 service members who took part in humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Matthew’s wrath in Haiti are expected to return home in a couple of days, Navy Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, told reporters at the Pentagon today.
“We were told to prepare for a two-week mission and I think that looks like it is going to be a pretty accurate timeline,” Tidd said of Joint Task Force-Matthew relief work conducted out of Port-au-Prince.
Hurricane Devastates Parts of Haiti
Tidd visited the tiny island nation last weekend and offered his observations.
“[Hurricane Matthew] ran over the southwestern tip of Haiti and essentially devastated that whole region,” he said.
But significant progress has been achieved since the earliest days of the relief operations, Tidd said earlier today during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The day after the hurricane passed through, we were able to surge the U.S. military,” he noted at the conference, “ … come in [in] very short order behind the hurricane, and were able to be on the ground, set up a joint task force to begin to provide that very critical unique enabler the U.S. military brings — the ability to move fast and move heavy loads of humanitarian aid to the hardest-hit areas at same time the international network was able to open up the roads from Port-au-Prince to the southwest.”
U.S. Southern Command stood up Joint Task Force Matthew on Oct. 5 to transport humanitarian relief supplies such as food, shelter and safe drinking water for what the United Nations estimated to be 1.4 million Haitian citizens in need, according to a Defense Department official who said the hardest-hit communities are along Haiti’s southwestern peninsula in the Sud and Grand‘Anse regions.
Aid Totaled Nearly 600,000 Pounds
“As of the end of yesterday, the military moved more than 559,000 pounds, or 250 metric tons, of critical supplies to Haitian citizens, including food, water, shelter material, cholera kits” and other medical necessities, the admiral said.
The military responded to lead agency U.S. Agency for International Development, which had teams on the ground to identify the demands that existed and requested military assistance to execute missions, Tidd said, adding that nongovernmental agencies will also continue to provide support.
“Make no mistake,” he said, “the international community will work with the Haitian people for some time to come.”