By Diálogo September 29, 2017 The government of the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the U.S. Department of Defense, has provided nearly $7.3 million in humanitarian assistance for the Hurricane Irma and Maria responses to date for Fiscal Year 2017. The assistance comprised airlifting more than 45 metric tons of critical supplies—including emergency shelter materials, hygiene kits, water containers, and blankets—to Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Martin. Two flights delivered aid to Dominica and St. Maarten on September 26th; a third flight landed in Dominica on September 27th; and a fourth flight was scheduled to arrive in St. Kitts and Nevis later that same day, according to USAID. The agency had already airlifted relief supplies to Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas, after Hurricane Irma’s wrath devastated the area on September 7th as a Category 5 storm. As of September 28th, USAID had airlifted more than 151 metric tons of relief supplies for Caribbean hurricane relief efforts. In Dominica, relief items are reaching people in need. On September 26th, the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in the Caribbean worked closely with the government of Dominica to deliver aid—including water containers, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets—to 13 shelters around Roseau for distribution to communities hard hit by the storm. USAID DART is working with the U.S. military, in coordination with local disaster officials, to ensure that items airlifted by USAID are strategically distributed to those most in need around the island. USAID leads and coordinates all U.S. government international disaster assistance through OFDA. The agency airlifted 100 rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting to Saint Martin on September 27th to assist 5,000 people with emergency shelter needs. These, and other items provided by USAID, were distributed by governments and aid groups across the island. As the response activities led by the French and Dutch governments picked up speed, the United States scaled back its activities in the island of Saint Martin to provide resources to other areas in the Caribbean. The U.S. military concluded its mission on Saint Martin on September 28th, and transitioned operations to each nation’s government. After Hurricane Irma destroyed nearly all the island’s infrastructure, USAID requested the unique capabilities of the U.S. Department of Defense, specifically U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), to provide logistics support as well as water desalination services. Eight water units produced nearly 76,500 gallons of potable water for Saint Martin to date. USAID DART deployed to the region on September 7th to lead the U.S. government’s response to hurricanes Irma and Maria. Members of the DART are in Dominica, Saint Martin, Barbados, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. The DART remains flexible and nimble in order to mobilize to other areas based on needs assessed on the ground. SOUTHCOM Capabilities In some large-scale crises, USAID may require the unique capabilities of the U.S. Department of Defense to support its response activities through the use of military equipment, personnel, and/or technical expertise. For the humanitarian response to hurricanes Irma and Maria, USAID requested the unique capabilities of SOUTHCOM to provide airlift support, as well as water treatment services for the island of Saint Martin. “Our country is a compassionate nation with a long history of helping countries impacted by natural disasters like this,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, SOUTHCOM commander. “We’re ready to support USAID, if needed, to save lives, alleviate human suffering and provide aid to those afflicted by this storm.” It is this U.S. spirit that drives USAID’s international disaster responses, explained SOUTHCOM Public Affairs. “As we are witnessing across the United States, it is a core American value to help those in need, and USAID proudly works on behalf of the American people,” they said. “The humanitarian assistance we provide abroad represents the best of American generosity. In addition, humanitarian assistance helps strengthen our relationships with people around the world by helping them when they need it most.” USAID aims to deliver international assistance on behalf of the American people as efficiently as possible. To do this, it strategically positions staff and resources around the world and maintains a network of local emergency response experts. This means that while less than two percent of the United States’ federal budget is allocated for foreign assistance, USAID is well equipped to respond quickly and effectively when disaster strikes abroad.