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Inside Disaster

Ian Heigh, FACT Logistics Team Leader in Haiti

Ian Heigh

Q: What were your priorities when you landed in Haiti?

The main priorities for me, more particularly, for the logistics team, is pretty similar in every operation. In Haiti, it focused very much around looking at the operational priorities, and the initial operation priorities were water and health. To get the emergency response units into the field means setting up a good reception, or putting together a well-established reception at the airport, in both Santo Domingo and in Haiti itself, and making sure that the equipment that was being flown in by the various national societies was handled as efficiently as possible, and deployed. So that was my initial focus. Slightly separate to that but as important, was to make sure that we could establish an operating base for the logistics team to be able to work [out of]. For us that means somewhere to stay and live and be safe, but also to have somewhere to put the equipment. […]

Q: What made your job difficult in Haiti?

The situation in Haiti was extremely difficult, again it’s similar in a lot of different situations, and the way you run your logistics becomes operation specific, but if we talk about it in the cold light of day, very simply you have to go in there, provide a reception for goods coming in, store the things that need to be stored and distribute them. And doing that sounds like a very simple thing to do, and it is. And it’s generally quite easy.

The complicating factors come from how quickly you have to do it, how many people are around, what are the pressures from the government or the needs of people, and how big the operation is. And those factors are multiplied together, complicating the job. In Haiti, we probably had most of the complicating factors there, which made life pretty difficult to start with.

Q: What specifically made Haiti challenging?

The operation was so challenging for me because of its scale. Because there were a number of operational priorities and because of the state of the population and the effect of the disaster, and in addition the damage to what was already quite a weak infrastructure. So all of the elements were there in a pretty serious scale.

Q: When you say number of people, do you mean in the operation?

Well, the number of people involved is driven by the number of people affected. The more people affected, the more people will be involved in the response, and in this case in a very small area. There were a lot of people affected, there were a lot of people trying to help.

The amount of emergency response units deployed was unprecedented. It’s the biggest logistics operation the Federation’s ever run. And that was due to the amount of assistance that was required on the ground.

Q: Did you know the people on your logistics team?

The Red Cross, in its preparedness plans for the emergency response units, requires national societies that put these teams together to have the teams trained to a certain standard, and to understand a certain level of the processes and procedures that the federation uses. I hadn’t personally met any of the people that were on the logistics team, I knew most of the FACT [Field Assessment and Coordination] team. But in the logistics team, I knew that they would come with a certain capability, and they would come with a certain knowledge, and of course they were, they work for the Red Cross. And so all these things make it quite easy to start communicating.

Q: Do you still have to feel people out to get a sense of their capability?

Yeah, it’s the same for any team: try to work out what the strengths and weaknesses are, try to build on the strengths and help get over the weaknesses.

Q: Essentially your job is to move people, the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) teams and stock, relief items?

It’s a pretty demanding job, so initially for us as logisticians, we had three key priorities: the first was to get our ERUs out and deployed, the second was to start looking at what relief items were going to be required immediately, and the third was to support all the people that were coming in with their logistics challenges. So once they become generally self-sufficient, there’s always questions about cars, communications vehicles, etc, and that puts quite a strain on, takes quite a lot of time for the logistics team as well.

Q: So any of the ERU teams, if they want to bring anything into the country, it has to go through logistics?

It’s mobilized through the Federation’s logistic structure.

The operational priorities are set in Panama, and the coordination of goods are mobilized there. And we’re the front-end operating unit of that structure.

For the ERUs, for example, to move into the country, their movement from whichever country they’re coming from outside, is coordinated by the logistics unit in Panama. Logistics being in Panama will receive and give instruction on when planes can come and what size they are and how big they are. That information is then given to the logistics team on the ground, the one I was heading, to activate.

Q: On a given day, how many requests are you fielding?

No idea. It’s a very interesting question.

Q: Guess.

I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know. You’ll see that, when we’re moving around in an operation centre, the people, the things that were important for the operation from a logistical point of view, people [that] had grabbed us to talk about those issues got some time, and the people who wanted to talk to us about things that weren’t so high up on the priority probably got less time.

Q: Squeaky wheel syndrome?

No, no, no. Because there’s so many people there’s a lot of priorities, and everyone has a right to be heard and ask for assistance. But against what we’ve decided as the FACT team, and against the operational plan, and our job is to decide which of those need to be served first. So we’ll try to deal with people’s questions, and requests and whatever we need as best we can, but we prioritize.

Q: Was Haiti a disaster waiting to happen?

I think Haiti already was a disaster. It depends what you want to call a disaster.

Q: How do you define it?

I don’t know whether you can say that Haiti was already a disaster. It’s an extremely poor country, which has been subject to—what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s a poor country subject to recurring disasters. That means that you can never fully recover from the first disaster before the second one comes, and that’s going to drive the population to a point where they have absolutely no coping mechanisms whatsoever. A coping [mechanism] is when something happens to you, you can help yourself and do something about it. I think a good majority of the affected population here really had no way to help themselves, and I think that’s the result of being in a recurring disaster situation.

Q: How can we break that cycle?

Well, I think from a Red Cross point of view, the thing that we can do is we can give the Haitian Red Cross support to develop increased disaster risk reduction and preparedness capability. What that means is that when there is going to be a hurricane or there is going to be some sort of natural phenomenon, that they’re ready to deal with it and they know what’s going to happen, so that the people aren’t affected so much, so that they can get out of the way, so they can move, so they have an early warning system for a tsunami, for example, or a hurricane, so they can get out of the way. And so, the less they’re affected, the quicker they can build back, but it’s a long term project, it’s 30 or 40 or 50 years of continuous investment. What is difficult is the way disaster response is generally funded, that that investment, that required sort of level of investment isn’t there in the long term.

And so we end up with a lot of money at what is perceived to be the point of need, i.e. when the disaster actually hits and there’s television cameras there. And not enough to build a good long-term sustainable capability for the population to look after themselves.

Q: When the Red Cross sends out appeals for donations, aren’t they thinking long term?

You’d think so but most of the money raised in a disaster probably is expected to be spent on the people at that point, which is why you see some of the criticism that comes out and says, “Ok we’ve given you X hundred million, why hasn’t everyone got a house already?” Well, because it’s not possible to do that from the point that they were at, and the amount [of people] that were affected, to take them to a point of relative safety, in four or five weeks. It’s not possible. It’s possible to do it in six months, if they’re in a good condition before, but that good condition before means that they had to have some investment before that disaster happens. So I think the spike in funds available at the disaster, if you really want to bring them out of a cycle of poverty, that spike of fund availability has to be smoothed out, but that’s a very difficult thing to do. Because you donate when you see people suffering on TV.

Q: Can’t you smooth out spending?

The money comes generally tied, so it’s tied to an activity within the response, from most donors. And we can’t, but if you give some money, somebody asked you to give ten dollars to Haiti on the street, and we say, “Fine that’s great, we’re going to spend it in 2012”, how’re you going to feel about it? How are most people going to feel about that?

You asked me how the problem of bringing these guys out of this cycle is going to happen, and it’s only going to happen if we smooth out the fund[ing], basically. And it’s not down to the Red Cross, it’s down to the donors and the people who supply the money.

Q: How hard was the Haiti mission compared to other disasters?

I’ve probably been involved in most of the major disasters that have happened from ‘94 or something, I’ve been around and involved in… I don’t know how many that is. I can only really talk personally because that’s what I know, and this has probably been the most challenging for me personally to be involved in. Because it was the most technically and physically difficult to get the job done.

Q: Why physically?

The demands were pretty high, but I mean physically because of the amount of work and the amount of involvement, and how quickly things had to be done. Again, I go back to the point that things are fairly simple if you work out how you’re going to get stuff in, how you’re going to start, how you’re going to move out to people. When you add those complicating factors of the size of the operation, the damage to the infrastructure, and the amount of operational needs at the same time—and here they were huge. Those complicating factors all multiply to make life pretty difficult, and here those complicating factors were all big. In an operation, you might find one or two of them; one or two of those factors have a major impact. Here, all of them did.

Q: What kind of hours were you working?

I started work around 4:30 [a.m.] generally, looking at planning and trying out some quiet time, to get ready before everyone started to come to work and get on with stuff. I generally tried to be in bed before midnight.

Q: What type of personality is attracted to logistics?

It depends. Logisticians are generally fairly pragmatic, and want to get a job done. Logistics is logic, right? We like things to work. They’re very, very driven to get a job done, and don’t like it when they can’t do something.

Q: Is it hard to operate in the chaos of a disaster with that mindset?

It depends. If you set the targets right, then its fine. If you made the targets achievable, I mean, it depends on how you set your standards on what you want to do, but you need to have people like that because you want [people] who are not people who build walls, but people who’ll knock ‘em down to get to whatever it is they need to do.

Q: One of your team members, Pauli, was in charge of coordinating Red Cross flights through the Port-au-Prince airport. How did that work?

It’s different from operation to operation. The UN runs their system and may be in charge of airspace. In Haiti, the government was, from a very early stage, supported by the American military, and they started to coordinate all of the air, they were supported to coordinate all of the air movements. The federation, and definitely working with the Haitian Red Cross, the federation will always try to run it’s own air operations, we try to remain as independent as possible, because of our principles and values, all the important stuff for us.

In Haiti, we have very good access to the government through the Haitian Red Cross, to try to get our flights coordinated into the bigger, what was the American driven system, or American coordinated system. I think “driven” is probably a bit unfair. The way we did that was we set up a base at the airport with two guys who were there 24 hours, and Pauli would talk to the guy who was running the airport, the guy [was] sort of a top American military man, and the top civil defense guy. [Pauli had] access to these because we were bringing so much stuff in, so we were quite a big player. Probably second only to the American military, certainly in the initial stages.

Because we’re internationally recognized, we have our own call signs for our aircraft, and because we were putting together some fairly consistent flights that could be planned in, so we weren’t trying to turn up, weren’t saying we don’t know what’s going on the next day, we were trying to plan maybe a week ahead, saying, “We want to bring these flights these days, these flights these days,” so he had very good access to them because he could give them good information, and we actually had a very good working relationship with those guys, but it is a working relationship. We’re not integrated into it at all. And of course we’re relying on the ground handling capacity to offload the aircraft, etc.

Q: Why were flights sometimes diverted to Santo Domingo?

Because the airport doesn’t belong to us and we don’t control it, there are conflicting priorities for the guys running the airport. There’s only a certain limited number of slots in a day that they can bring aircraft in, as I say the competing priorities, there’ll be governmental priorities, there’ll be donor priorities, there’ll be priorities of the military themselves. And our priorities have to fit in with those. Actually, around 60% of our planned aircraft in the first two weeks landed and came in as we planned, which for me is quite a good result. The rest were diverted.

Q: 60% is a good result?

Yeah…. Because some of the diversions we made ourselves, so anything that was – in the initial phases, that’s water, or was health, we prioritized to bring directly to Haiti. And if it was non-food items, and secondary equipment, we would send it to Santo Domingo, because we didn’t have enough of a supply chain to handle everything at once, so we prioritized as well. So it wasn’t just about the system.

Q: Ok. What about the Norwegian hospital? It was delayed a day because equipment was diverted to the Dominican Republic.

They will be because it’s absolute chaos, and the system wasn’t set up at that point – they were extremely early.

So for the Norwegians it’s a bit less a problem because we weren’t there to advise them, but they would’ve done better waiting a day till we were there because they would have got in quicker. They would have got their stuff.

Q: Is there external pressure to bring in ERUs and goods faster than you’re able to accommodate them?

Planning happens between Panama and us on the ground. They say, “This is all the things that need to come in.” We say, “Here’s the operational priority and what we can handle,” and we make a plan between us and that’s what happens, or that’s what should happen. We try to follow it as much as possible, and of course it all goes wrong, and then we try to fix it. But that’s how the planning’s done.

Q: 60% landed in Port au Prince?

Yah, I guess 60% of them landed when we wanted them to land, in the right place. In the first two weeks or so, that’s more or less what it is.

Q: I’m surprised 60% is considered a success.

If we’d have had full access to all the slots in the airport, we could’ve got probably 90%. 60% of what we had initially planned, we didn’t have to change our plans [for]. 40% of it we had to move around.

60% is a really big win. And it doesn’t mean that 40% failed, it means 40% arrived a day later or maybe earlier, or we diverted into Santo Domingo and trucked them. So what I’m saying is 60% of our logistics plan that we actually planned to come into Haiti worked.

Q: Because the Red Cross is a large player, are you allotted a larger portion of the pipeline?

If you’re only talking about air operations. We understand what the operational constraints are, so we wouldn’t ask for anything that’s ridiculous. But generally what we do ask for is reasonable, and in general, the cooperation was done so that we explained what we were bringing in – that was important for the, for the response at that particular time, and why we had to bring it in. We tried to schedule it so that they could plan it in, and generally we got what we asked for.

Q: The people who prioritizing the flights; deciding which NGO gets to land their plane, do they take into consideration the experience or professionalism of the NGO?

I think it was done through SOUTHCOM [United States Southern Command], In Miami.

Q: So how did they decide which planes get to land?

No comment.

Ian Heigh

Q: The first Red Cross base camp, what were conditions like?

The initial area that we operated from was what was meant to be the warehouse. And that would’ve been fine, because it was basically a staging area until we set up our permanent base camp. We didn’t really have a lot of relief items coming in. Because clearly our focus was to bring the teams and their equipment and deploy them, so we didn’t [require] too much space. What happened was that because of some of the operation difficulties, the base camp, the living base camp, took a little bit longer to come in then we expected. And what I meant was we had to be really, really careful about how much items and equipment came in, so there’s two problems with that, and the first was we didn’t really have enough storage space to take care of everything we wanted to bring into Haiti at that time, and secondly it obviously makes operating personally very difficult, because everyone’s crunched into the same space.

How we dealt with it was we were looking at warehousing at the time so that we could find a second post to operate from, and we found something really good in ten days. So this all sounds like a very short time, but when you’re working so quickly and everything’s condensed, those two or three days start to seem really long, and starts to affect your operation.

Q: What was it like to work in those conditions?

I’m not sure it’s so difficult for anyone outside logistics, except for the sleeping and living accommodations. Ok, it’s a bit grim, but you can put up with it for a few days, but the problem was it was the logistics operational base, so to have trucks and goods and stuff moving about, at the same time having all the operational teams there, is a) dangerous, and b) difficult to control. So I’m not sure that anyone was, I mean it was not particularly easy to work there, but it was not particularly difficult either. It wasn’t impossible.

Q: As an operational centre, how does it compare to other disasters you’ve worked in?

I’ve worked out of 4 star hotels, and lived out of a tent for 3 months in the middle of a swamp, so, it depends. It was what it was, I mean it was pretty safe. It was overcrowded, there’s no question.

Q: Where was the swamp?

I was deployed in the Great Lakes, I was deployed in Rwanda for awhile. And I did some work in Northern Uganda, so I worked all around the Great Lakes for the Sudanese war. I worked on an old Sudanese border, south Sudan and that. So we eventually built grass tuck houses, so that was pretty good. I worked in Rwanda for a while, I worked in Tanzania, we lived in sort of a, it was pretty good local huts there, for about 18 months, again for Rwanda. I lived in a tent in Honduras for hurricane Mitch, as well, actually.

Q: You’ve been doing this for a number of years. Do you see any trends in how we respond to disasters?

Well, actually it was pretty interesting. The way that disasters happen, and how they affect people is changing from the early 90’s to now, of course it is, and generally it depends a bit on where you work, but generally when you go into an operation now, you have some sort of infrastructure, some sort of place to start, which wasn’t necessarily the case in, when there was big refuge camps being set up in the middle of nowhere, and huge population movements through civil war and stuff. The environmental, the much more increased environmental disasters and the fact that a lot of them happen in cities, and generally they don’t devastate everything, [that] means that you can sort of find somewhere to operate from easier, these days in general, I think. I mean it’s a very, very sweeping statement.

Q: Was the first base camp a security risk?

The first warehouse was definitely a security problem but, I mean, it was a security problem in that you’re operating a warehouse inside an operating **(???)**, and we actually only operates from that warehouse as an operation unit for around ten or fourteen days, right? It wasn’t a huge amount of time. Again, once you’re in the context it seems like forever, but it’s not. And for me, the thing I was most worried about was running someone over. That was the biggest security issue for me, which is why in the end, we sectioned everything off.

Q: Was it always a temporary base?

Yeah, that was a temporary step off point, absolutely. That was never going to be our main warehouse, that was never going to be our main operating area. That was what we could get a hold of at that time.

Q: With 21 ERUs deploying to Haiti, did that clog up your pipeline?

But that was the operational priority. All the ERUs that [were] deployed were health and water, related, right? To run the operation, what do you need? Let’s have a look at the operational priority. Water health. Ok, so water, health, plus you need some support for those to deploy and run. Logistics and telecoms, that’s what we deployed.

Q: So, all of those ERU’s had to come through.

Well, yes, exactly. It’s not for me to say how many they need, or how big it’s going to be. That’s for the Haitian Red Cross and the Federation. But once that’s decided, those Red Crosses represent our initial response. So it doesn’t matter if you’re not giving someone a blanket, because you’re deploying a hospital. Because people need a hospital first, then they need a blanket.

Q: Do you think the ERUs could have been brought in in a more coordinated fashion?

I think we could have staged it better. We could’ve scheduled it better. You have to remember, these ERUs, these twenty ERUs come from fifteen different countries, and then they have to get all of their people ready, and make sure their equipment goes, and get them financed, and get them on planes and bring them in. What we should, what we will learn from this is the fact that when you’re deploying that many ERUs, they are prioritized, and we should actually be giving them slots ourselves, rather than saying, “Ok, we need you all, so go when you’re ready,” which is sort of what happened. Normally, that would happen and when you have four or five ERUs going into an operation, it’s fine, it’s not a problem. We used the same mechanism, because we’ve never deployed this many before. And we all got in each other’s way, a little bit. Again, we’re talking incremental improvement. The fact that we had twenty-one ERUs on the ground, operating within fourteen days of all their equipment, helping X number of people in hospital, and Y number of people with water, is excellent. Could we have moved them in, got them in two or three days earlier by being just a little more system tight? Probably, yes. And we’ll make the improvements to happen next time.

Q: You have to balance bringing in ERU teams and relief items. One is no good without the other. Did you ever feel the large number of ERUs coming through was preventing you from brining in relief items?

The supply chain, as big as it is, will take as many tonnes and as many aircraft a day. We never missed a slot that we could have, or didn’t bring something through that we could’ve brought through. Every time that we had an opportunity to bring items or equipment in, we did it as quickly as we could, and we ran [by] the operational priorities. The fact is, we were distributing seven days after I arrived, and we were doing it concurrently with the ERU movement, because we were bringing the non-food items from Santo Domingo, operating in that sort of limited space. But you can’t meet all of the expectations of everyone all of the time.

**cut?The answer is because the pipeline wasn’t big enough to bring in more people, to bring in more goods at the same time. **

Q: So how do you calculate the balance between the flow of people vs. relief items into the operation?

That’s more about the evolution of the operation and when we can bring people in, and what time makes sense to bring in more resources. And people from outside want to do things quickly, and people on the ground have to say, “Ok, this is what we can do, and this is what we can’t do, and then this is when we’ll be ready for the next thing”. And because of external pressure, some of them don’t want to listen.

Q: What external pressures are you dealing with?

We have pressures from the National Society, pressure from the population itself, pressure from other agencies that we’re operating with, because they want to move stuff or they want to do stuff. There’s pressure from everywhere. I think to pick up on the general point that there are a lot of factors to juggle, to take into consideration then try and find the right ways. Do you manage those factors well? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s quite difficult to do when everything’s pushed onto a team already working over capacity. But that’s the reality of it for now.

Q: It’s always like that?

It’s always like that to a degree. Again, the complicating factors will depend on to what degree. Complicating factors are: it’s huge, it’s very difficult to move stuff about, and everyone wants everything done quickly because there’s a big spotlight on it, so the pressure becomes greater, it’s just proportional, the same as the difficulty of logistics. It’s all about those three things.

Ian Heigh

Q: Why did Haiti get so much attention?

It’s a very interesting question. I don’t know. I don’t know why. Disasters are generally about who’s politically interested, and the response is about who’s politically interested, to some extent, combined with time of the year, combined with how people feel about a place, combined with I think how much press attention it gets, combined… it’s a hundred different factors why. I’ve never been able to fathom out why some countries get more spotlight than others.

Q: In your experience, in Haiti was there an intense spotlight on you?

Yeah, it was enormous. That was an unprecedented response, I would say, from the donor community. If you look at, and if you look at what’s going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo just now, where thousands of people die each week, and there isn’t that sort of spotlight on there, but there is in Haiti.

Q: How long did you work for the World Food Program?

I worked solely for them for about three years in the mid to late ‘90s but I worked for them on and off over the last fifteen years.

Q: How did you get into humanitarian work?

I was a royal army engineer in the British Army, and when I was in the army, I was detached from my squadron to a project called Operation Riley, which takes groups of gap year students to various countries, and they run six different projects, so these guys are between 19 and 33, they have to raise three or four grand, and then we went to Botswana and there were five or six different projects in Botswana, this was in the ‘90s, and I was in charge of a project to build a medical centre in the middle of the Kalahari, which was a piece of work I enjoyed. So when I left the military, because I was an engineer, I was looking for somewhere I could use field-engineering skills. And I went to work for the VSO, which is like Peace Corp but British, and I went to build seven schools in Kenya.

I built schools in Kenya, and from there the UN asked if I would go and do some operations for them in the Sudan, when there was still the war on, taking the food and [inaudible], and stuff like that. And I did, and I sort of liked the work, so I looked around to see who I should work with, I really liked the Red Cross and their principle, so I spent some time getting into the Red Cross, and I’ve been going on some operations since then.

Q: So you’ve mainly worked with the UN and the Red Cross.

I’ve worked on an off for a number of small agencies as well, and some governments sometimes and some donors, but principally the Red Cross actually.

Q: Are you contract?

I’m contracted. I have a business.

Q: Are there many opportunities for people wanting to do this type of work?

It depends what you want to do and who you want to work with. And everyone has to sort of find their own way, but if you want to, it’s pretty vocational I guess I mean, I get paid for it so I’m not a volunteer, but it’s pretty vocational. It’s quite difficult to get into and quite difficult to get accepted. Reasonably difficult to be good at, and extremely difficult to leave, is what I would say.

Q: Why do you say that?

Because being able to be in disaster response is a very (inaudible) position to be in. If you think about, if you see something on the TV or whatever, and how helpless do you feel, sort of loads of poor people getting, having their life sort of disrupted and stuff, if you can imagine where you can be in a position where you can work with a group of people who are from there, and a group of really good and trained professionals from around [the world], and go and provide some assistance. There’s two things I would add, the first is it means you can do something to help, and secondly, there’s an amount of personal reward and satisfaction from being able to do it, and it’s very difficult to get that, I found it very difficult to get that in most other jobs.

Q: Why is personal satisfaction in your job so important to you?

I work hard the same as everyone else. I think I work quite hard, and I want my work to mean something and to make a difference, which sounds very glib, but that’s what it’s about. Otherwise, yes, it’s quite a difficult life. There are a lot of challenges and a bit of personal sacrifice here and there… it strains a lot of relations, that’s for sure.

Q: What do you find the most rewarding about it?

It’s absolutely impossible to say, because everything’s rewarding about it. In the end, if you can work with a group of like-minded people, to produce a result that makes a significant positive impact on people who need a bit of a hand, there isn’t a much better reward than that. But there’s a lot of nuances and bits a pieces involved in that.

Q: At the end of a mission is it difficult to leave?

The difficulty in leaving is that you always feel like you could’ve done more.

Q: Will you go back to Haiti?

I’d imagine so, yeah. That was my first time, I had never been to Haiti before so it was interesting to go.

Q: Do you get to meet a lot of the local people in the work you do?

We were very fortunate in logistics, as the Haitian Red Cross have a lot of … for logistics, we would probably be the biggest, we interacted [with] the biggest number of Haitians, I guess as an individual unit, I mean there’s quite a few at the hospitals and stuff, but we had hundreds of loaders and lorry drivers and logisticians from the Haitian Red Cross who were excellent, did a really good job. And we met a lot of them.

Q: Why do relief teams rely on numbers to qualify their success in delivering aid?

Because that’s how people can see that anything’s happening. If you’re sitting outside of the country, how can you tell if people are being assisted or not, what’s the way that you can tell? The way you can tell is if an agency reports its helped one person, a hundred or a thousand people.

Q: But numbers don’t tell the whole story, as to whether the situation is actually improving. Do they?

You know what? In humanitarian response generally, there’s a famous quote, I don’t remember who said it, but we use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination, and that’s how numbers work for us.

Q: Any way to change that?

An education campaign for donors and maybe, people in general that you have to have qualitative and quantitative data feedback [for], but how to present that in a way that the people outside an operation will understand it is extremely difficult. Otherwise we would’ve done it already. So what we generally report is basically information that’s easy to give, and that doesn’t usually tell the whole picture, it doesn’t usually tell the whole story.

Q: I read recently that Oxfam hired someone from UPS to advise on their logistics – is there something to be learned from the commercial world?

Yeah, I was a supply chain director for a blue chip in the UK for four years. It was a four billion dollar company, annual budget of 10 million pounds in logistics, and that was mine, that’s what I did. I have a master’s degree in supply chain management.

Q: Is it useful to bring in outside logisticians?

I think anything that makes logistics more effective is useful. There’s a place for commercial and humanitarian logisticians to work together to make response more effective, there’s no question. The problem for the time being is that in general, humanitarian logisticians view commercial logisticians as wanting to come in and just make a profit and rip off the humanitarian thing. Commercial logisticians think humanitarian logisticians are a bunch of do-gooders that don’t really know what they’re doing. Both of them are wrong. Because yes, to some extent, humanitarian logisticians have different ideals but are generally fairly professional. Commercial logisticians aren’t always about profit, and even if they are, if they do the job more effectively than an agency can do for a cheaper cost, then they should be involved. So there’s a place for them both, the question is how to find that place and integrate them together. So, for me you shouldn’t have commercials doing front-end logistics, i.e. in-country delivery to beneficiaries, etc, because it’s not what they’re set out to do, it’s not what they know about what to do, nor should you have international agencies running shipping lines or trucks that bring stuff to the first port in country, because there’s huge, very competent logistics providers that do that.

Q: You chose Panama as point of entry for Red Cross goods coming into Haiti – was that an unusual decision? Because most agencies were flying or shipping directly to Haiti and warehousing in-country.

It wasn’t particularly. To view our long-term options that early operation is quite unusual. But what that meant was, when the operation really started to crank up and there was larger volumes coming through, rather than having to plan or discuss at that point, I mean we’d already done the work, and we already had the answers which means that the ramp up of the operation happened much quicker.