KBI/Tzu Mission to Afghanistan and
With Coordination assistance provided by Asia Pacific Institute
July 10, 2002
Wrap up in the Philippines:
Our last update was from Zamboanga, on Mindanao in the Philippine Islands. From there we returned to Manila to wrap up some meetings there pertinent to securing the proper documentation for Knightsbridge operating as an NGO there, and to secure some support from US Government agencies for what we learned is needed in Mindanao.
The immediate situation we are dealing with is securing funding for the medcaps that the Joint Forces want to launch in August on Basilan Island. (A Medcap is an event where a team of doctors, fully equipped with basic medicines and supplies go to several towns at once to set up shop in an existing clinic building, to provide the badly needed medical attention to the residents there.) The joint forces are attempting to operate between 20 and 40 of these event in the month of August, with each event attending to 500 patients. To proceed with this plan the armed forces require medicine and the support of additional teams of doctors.
Tzu Chi has doctors in Zamboanga who may be in a position to participate on a volunteer basis with these medcaps. This still left a significant financial shortfall to purchase medicines in the short amount of time available between now and the end of July.
We met with the US Ambassador to the Philippines who was extremely courteous and encouraging to our work. Although he was not able to come up with funds to help support the purchase of the medicines, he suggested that perhaps some of the local organizations he meets with might, and agreed to approach them on our behalf.
We then met with USAID to see whether or not they were in a position to help with the medcaps. They spent several hours meeting with us. They were not very encouraging to being able to help us financially, but they agreed to review a formal proposal if we submitted one.
We debated amongst ourselves as to whether or not the effort involved in the proposal would be worth the time, because our reading of the situation was that the funding would not be available, and we had to be on our way to Afghanistan in 24 hours. But, we decided to prepare a presentation and submit it prior to leaving. We prepared a 13 page proposal, outlining what the funds would be used for, and how the expenditures and goals fit in to the published guidelines of what USAID is hoping to accomplish in the Mindanao Region.
We learned today that USAID will most likely provide the funds based on this proposal, and the Special Forces team are now getting geared up to proceed with the medcaps in a couple of weeks.
On to Tashkent and Afghanistan:
We arrived in Tashkent on Tuesday, July 9th in the afternoon. We proceeded directly to the offices of Globalink, the freight company that we had contracted with to locate our containers, offload them, store the contents in a bonded warehouse, and handle the logistics involved in reloading the supplies onto multiple trucks for our four locations. We had never met with these people personally and had just made arrangements over the phone from Bangkok. We were being very optimistic that hopefully, the contents would be cleared through customs when we arrive, and we could go to work on Wednesday loading the trucks for Afghanistan.
To our surprise, the containers were in fact located, off-loaded and ready for our loading. Globalink had arranged for 9 trucks to be at the warehouse on Wednesday morning, when we would immediately start this process.
We spent a good bit of Tuesday night coming up with a plan of how to complete the work as quickly as possible. The contents included 2,771 boxes, plus two solar ovens, and an x-ray machine. The boxes were all piled floor to ceiling and wall to wall in a large warehouse. We could only fit two of the trucks near the door of the warehouse. So, we decided to come up with a color code for each location, and mark these locations on each box on the Tzu Chi-prepared manifest. Since one of the locations included 3 orphanages, we actually had 6 separate consignees we had to keep track of.
The system worked well. We arrived at the warehouse early to get organized, and to be ready to start loading as soon as the trucks arrived. They arrived at 8:30. We had the help of a crew of 6 to 8 helpers to load the trucks. The loading process was completed by 7:30 that night.
The next step is for Globalink to prepare individual packing slips and transit documentation in order to obtain outgoing customs clearance. This should all take place on Thursday. Then the convoy of 9 large trucks should be ready to roll out by Friday morning.
The trucks will all travel in convoy to Aibak, where 2 will stop to be off loaded. We will meet the trucks at Aibak, and do the offloading. We will then find some quick transportation to catch up with and overtake the convoy prior the junction where the road splits to go to Bamiyan or Kabul. Four trucks will continue to Kabul, and three will head to Bamiyan. We will go to Kabul and complete the offloading of the trucks for three orphanages and a group "Friends for Afghan Reconstruction." We will also deliver one of the Sun Ovens to Mercy Corps in Kabul.
From there, we will try to beat the convoy to Bamiyan, and complete the distribution of the last three containers.
In a rather disappointing turn of events, Ed attended a meeting at the Afghan Embassy in the afternoon to coordinate the required documentation, and to organize our crossing over the Friendship Bridge. We also had to establish transportation and security once inside Afghanistan. Ed had been invited to the embassy for a 3:00 meeting to go over all of these items and more. We expected this to be a very productive meeting - particularly recognizing the amount of aid that we have in the past delivered, and that we are currently in the process of brining in.
Unfortunately, something must have happened between the time we were invited to the meeting and when we showed up, because the officials there refused to even come out of their offices to meet with us - not even to say why they did not want to meet with us.
While this causes us great concern, we are trying to remember that we are here to help the Afghan people - not the Afghan government or their remote offices. Still, it is quite disheartening to be hit with this type of reception when so many people have worked so hard to get these goods here. It would be a shame to have to stop now, and tell the Afghan people to whom we have promised these supplies, that certain appointed representatives within their newly-formed government made it impossible for us to help them. We expressed our concerns to officials in the US and elsewhere in Afghanistan, and have been assured that this issue will be resolved immediately, and we will receive the support we have requested.
So, for at least the next 24 hours, we will remain here in Tashkent networking with whomever we can think of that might also want to see this aid get to its intended destination without having to pay tolls, taxes, and bribes.
We were told by our friends at Globalink that as far as they know, no aid trucks have been into Bamiyan in their recent memory, and certainly not since the current war began.
Photos attached to this Update include:
- 0111: About 1/4th of the Warehouse
- 3619: Another 1/4th of the Warehouse
- 3628: Ed, getting buried in boxes
- 0119: Identifying boxes
- 3644: Loading Sun Oven
- 3648: Line up of Trucks
Thanks again for your interest and support,
Walt Ratterman, with Ed Artis, and Adrian Belic
July 10, 2002