Haiti 2010 Earthquake Response

Explanations change, but red tape endures

Just when it seemed that the last obstacle to medical evacuations had cleared, a new obstacle has emerged.  After ten Americans were arrested trying to take children out of Haiti, private evacuations of injured Haitian children to the U.S. for life-saving care have again slowed to a crawl.  Without certain paperwork in hand, “Aid workers, doctors and government officials are worried about being accused of kidnapping,” reports the New York Times.  American Customs officials reportedly have failed to give pilots required forms prior to take off.

The paperwork for these private flights has been a challenge from the beginning. After the earthquake struck, pilots and doctors were getting in shouting matches daily on the runway, with pilots saying they feared losing their licenses and being fined $400,000 if they did not have the medical parole forms from Customs…Florida hospitals had already volunteered to take them. Pilots were waiting with planes ready to fly them there. All three had at least one person claiming to be a parent with them, but none had documents to prove it. (NYT)

Said Dr. Shayan Vyas, an American pediatrician, “This is not how medicine is supposed to work.”

Destruction of identifying documentation and separation of parents and children are typical impacts of catastrophe and, therefore, foreseeable.  Thus, it is possible for governments to avoid deadly delays in medical care by developing corrective procedures and international agreements in advance of disaster.  Allowing critically injured children to die for the lack of a form suggests incompetent planning or bureaucratic indifference, or both.

For more on the story, plus a shocking video, see “Race to Avoid a ‘Death by Red Tape’ in Haiti.

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