Quick Response Team Launched for Disasters in Latin America,

United Nations partnerships with the private sector aimed at speeding up relief aid for areas in crisis took a further step forward with the inauguration of a disaster response team (DRT) to cover emergencies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took part in the launch of the DRT Americas by the international shipping company DHL, to be based in South Florida and consisting of some 80 DHL experts specially trained to ensure that relief supplies reach people quickly and effectively in the case of a major natural disaster.

"The DHL Disaster Response Teams show how valuable the support from companies can be for supplementing the existing disaster management system," OCHA representative Carlos Monteiro-Pereira said.

Comprised of regular DHL employees who have volunteered, the DRT will seek to cut bottlenecks at airports close to the scene of a major natural disaster by helping to organize the handling, warehousing and loading of relief supplies for onward transportation.

In April OCHA and DHL launched a similar operation for the Asia-Pacific region, based in Singapore. In December 2005, DHL entered into a partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and OCHA in disaster management to set up a global network of DRTs.

"Logistics is often the linchpin in disaster response – the make or break. Getting help to people in need is critical and for this we need a smooth supply chain," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said.

DHL services are provided as an in-kind donation. In addition to existing work in disaster response, the partnership will also cover other areas of disaster management such as disaster preparedness.

"By setting up the DRT Americas we are making a significant contribution to preparing for the upcoming hurricane season and to support relief efforts in the case of a natural disaster anywhere in the region," said DHL Express Americas CEO John Mullen.

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