Willing but not Invited: Armenian rescuers still not sent to Haiti

An Armenian rescue team on standby since last Thursday, has still not deployed to Haiti, nearly a week after the devastating earthquake and massive loss of life for which some 30 other rescue teams are now on the ground.

Last Thursday Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations announced that a 52-member team of earthquake-recovery specialists was ready to leave to lend assistance to the demolished Caribbean island country, where experts already said the “window of opportunity” had closed for finding people still alive in the rubble that used to be Port Au-Prince. Still, more than 70 survivors were found over the weekend.

Today (January 18), ministry spokeswoman Susanna Abrahamyan told ArmeniaNow that – although the Armenian team is eager to help (and in some ways repay kindness extended in 1988), in fact Armenia has not received an invitation from the United Nations, the official body administering aid to Haiti. Asked why the ministry announced that the team was going before having official clearance, Abrahamyan said that the ministry in fact announced the readiness of the rescuer team although the terms were not made clear.

The team is made up of rescuers, translators, doctors, and a dog specially-trained to find survivors or bodies – a squad for whom earthquake recovery has special significance two decades after the Spitak earthquake shattered so many Armenian families and remains a scar on the republic’s social memory.

The experience of the Spitak earthquake showed that recovery work is needed even weeks after rescue, when bodies are still being removed from wreckage.

The Armenian Office of UN said it is unaware whether the UN head office (in New York) has made a decision regarding the Armenian group.