The Foreign Service Journal, April 2010

A P R I L 2 0 1 0 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 21 F O C U S O N T H E F S R O L E I N H A I T I R ELIEF E FFORTS R ESONATE IN W EST A FRICA hen Lieutenant Com- mander Samuel Ayelazono of the Ghana Armed Forces was selected to participate in Africa Partnership Station’s 2010 mission toWest Africa, he had no idea he would wind up providing disaster relief to earthquake victims in Haiti instead. And because Ghana’s early coverage of the earth- quake consisted largely of international wire stories, Ayela- zono’s countrymen also had no idea that one of their own was playing a direct role in the relief efforts. But by linking Ayelazono, on board a U.S. navy vessel in Haiti, with Sammy Darko of Joy FM, Accra’s largest FM radio station, Embassy Accra’s public affairs section en- sured that Ghanaians received a first-hand account of their countryman’s role in Operation Unified Response, the joint U.S. military operation providing humanitarian assis- tance and disaster relief in Haiti. Embassy Accra had been preparing for the arrival in Sekondi of the USS Gunston Hall , an amphibious dock landing ship, as part of Africa Partnership Station, the an- nual program of U.S. and multinational visits that began in 2007. The ships travel to the Gulf of Guinea to provide a mobile platform for training activities; maintenance workshops; humanitarian assistance projects like the con- struction and restoration of medical clinics; and workshops on maritime environmental protection, illegal and unre- ported fishing, counternarcotics training and other security issues. Local Reports from the Scene Upon learning that the Gunston Hall was instead headed to Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response, Joy FMwas eager to report on the relief effort from a local angle. The station’s reporters have a deep appreciation and understanding of APS activities from past visits, and were anxious to give their listeners the scoop. Sammy Darko phoned the ship on Jan. 27 and spoke with Captain Cindy Thebaud and Lt. Cdr. Ayelazono. By then the ship had been docked at Haitian Coast Guard Base Killick for 10 days, with Ayelazono helping in the transfer of patients. “We had a lot of people with var- ious medical conditions coming to the hospital and being medevaced to the hospital ship anchored offshore,” Ayela- zono told his fellowGhanaians. “We recorded 200 patients a day. The situation is coming down now, so we are switch- ing our efforts to food distribution.” Ayelazono’s job was to keep track of patients as they were evacuated to distant hospitals or to offshore medical facili- ties such as the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort . Ayelazono also reflected on how his work inHaiti would N AVAL PERSONNEL FROM THREE W EST A FRICAN NATIONS JOINED THE H AITI RELIEF EFFORT AS PART OF A U.S.–A FRICAN MILITARY PROGRAM . B Y B ENJAMIN E AST W Benjamin East is information officer in Accra. Embassies Dakar, Accra and Abuja collaborated on this article.