PORT-AU-PRINCE -- When a series of hurricanes battered this impoverished Caribbean island nation last year, thousands of people were left stranded as threadbare roads melted into rivers and a wall of water swept over the northern city of Gonaives.
The natural disaster could have taken on far more drastic dimensions – but for a fleet of M621 trucks, 6x6 all-terrain that hauled nearly 6,400 metric tons of food, tents, health kits and other critical supplies to a desperate population in the first seven months of the humanitarian response.
As Haiti braces for more storms this hurricane season – which officially began in June and ends in late November – some 63 WFP trucks are again ready for action. Some of them are pre-positioned in 4 different areas where accessibility becomes an issue after a hurricane.
“They’re easy to run, easy to fix and they’re sturdy,” says Gabriel Muller, the 57-year-old Swiss workshop manager.
Homely but sturdy
Now up and running, the vehicles are small by trucking standards, carrying only four tonnes on the muddy tracks that serve as Haiti’s back roads. But they are flexible and durable, built to endure the most difficult terrain and capable of motoring up to 600 kilometres on jet and heating fuel, as well as diesel.
And when four hurricanes pounded Haiti between August and September 2008, the trucks delivered crucial assistance to many of the 800,000 people affected by the storms. When Haitians began rebuilding, they hauled construction material.
Ready for action
“In Gonaives last year, after the city was flooded, they carried enough construction materials, wood and cement to build 250 houses,” Muller says.
The trucks are available free of charge till the end of the hurricane season to all aid organizations operating in Haiti
“They carry the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) tools for gardening. For Action Against Hunger, they carry purified water to school, and operate transportation for many others agencies and NGOs.” ” Muller says.
Whether this hurricane season will be as devastating as that of 2008 is anybody’s guess. But Haitians and aid agencies can count on these homely, reliable vehicles to come to the rescue.