Barbadian Engineer: United Nations turned away Caribbean professional assistance in Haiti

Updated: December 9, 2010

The recent stories about Haiti’s political troubles and the UN being fingered for causing the recent outbreak of cholera bring us back to this story about the the UN’s refusal to use Caribbean engineers after the January 2010 earthquake.

We haven’t seen much progress in Haiti since the earthquake – with millions still camped in the open. We wonder about all the aid pledges and foreign assistance on the ground. Have things returned to “normal” with the rest of the Caribbean and the world content with the state of affairs? If Haiti wasn’t an island but was instead a part of Florida, would the response be the same?

Here’s our original article. Perhaps Bajan professional engineer Grenville Phillips II can provide an update from his perspective…

“15th January 2010 – I contacted the Secretary General of the Caribbean Council of Engineering Organisations (CCEO), and the Chairman of the Caribbean Division of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) about surveying their members for a possible deployment…. we soon had a long list of Caribbean based structural engineers who volunteered to be deployed in Haiti, to help their fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters in their time of desperate need.”

… from the Weighed in the Balance article Haiti Deployment

What was the UN’s agenda in ignoring Caribbean Professionals?

The day after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Bajan professional engineer Grenville Phillips II started organising Caribbean structural engineers for deployment to Haiti to assist in evaluating the thousands of damaged schools, hospitals and other public buildings and to train Haitian engineers to perform the same task.

Short story: When Grenville arrived in Haiti, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) told Phillips (and through him the other Caribbean structural engineers) that their services were not needed and were not welcome.

UNOPS told Phillips that he wasn’t needed because the inspection of thousands of schools would be completed by the end of the week… but that was a lie.

UNOPS later reported that almost 6,000 public and private schools still hadn’t been inspected.

Grenville worked in Haiti for four weeks, but he was under-utilized by the United Nations and discovered that the United Nations had shunned Caribbean engineers and hired engineers from other regions (ie: North America and Europe).

You really should read his entire article and you’ll understand why he is now demanding answers to the following questions…

Questions That Need Answers

1.  Why have none of the UN agencies, international funding agencies, or aid organisations (except HfH) deployed any of the structural engineering volunteers in the Caribbean region, for a disaster which has occurred in the Caribbean.

2.  Why have the UN agencies, international funding agencies, and aid organisations that have contracted structural engineers, contracted them from outside of the Caribbean.

3.  Why was the lone structural engineer that was deployed from the Caribbean, discouraged from training Haitian engineers, and from inspecting any critical facilities?

4.  Why were none of the Caribbean based structural engineers deployed to evaluate any of the 5,900 schools that needed to be urgently evaluated?

5.  Why does UNOPS appear to be threatened by a group of Caribbean based structural engineers who were willing to volunteer their services?

6.  Why was UNOPS’s training so sub-standard.

I will attempt to answer some of these questions.  However, if anyone can provide a different interpretation of the evidence, then I will happily engage them in a discussion.

1.  If Caribbean based Structural Engineers volunteered their services, then there would be less work for the Engineers contracted by UNOPS to do…

… read the entire article at Weighed in the Balance Haiti Deployment

UPDATED: April 2, 2010 9:32pm

We received this note from Grenville and revised our article to reflect that he was not under-utilized in Haiti – but that the UN under-utilized him. Which is what we think he meant. If not, we’re sure Grenville will let us know!

“Hi BFP:

Thank you for discussing this issue. Let me clarify that while I wish that I could have done more for the Haitian people, I was not under utilized. I worked from about 7:00 am to about 11:00 pm daily on important structural engineering assignments while in Haiti.

Regards,
Grenville”


2 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Building Collapse, CARICOM, Disaster, Haiti

2 responses to “Barbadian Engineer: United Nations turned away Caribbean professional assistance in Haiti

  1. Hi BFP:

    Thank you for discussing this issue. Let me clarify that while I wish that I could have done more for the Haitian people, I was not under utilized. I worked from about 7:00 am to about 11:00 pm daily on important structural engineering assignments while in Haiti.

    Regards,
    Grenville

  2. BFP

    Hi Grenville

    Thanks. We’ve revised the article to reflect what we think you said, but of course if it’s not exactly right please let us know. That is the great thing about information on the blogs vs the oldstream newsmedia: credible public feedback, fact checking and discussion with the realisation that the average Bajan is far more intelligent and worthy than the elites give the people credit for.