Shipping Container Disaster Relief Is It Being Done Wrong?

shipping container loaded with cars

Someone brought a phrase up last week where scrutiny has been going on some of the charity organisations and a Red cross representative stated “we have decades of experience in Africa” as a defence. What are we talking about? the fact is aid doesn’t work and that often its a gravy train for people to make a living. Having 20 years in Africa and not fixing things to me is a waste of resources and billions of other peoples money. If we were this productive at work would it be acceptable?

This gets me on to shipping containers that are being utilized for shipping around the world to use as medical centres, doctors surgeries etc. etc. As you can see in the photo two cars can fit into a shipping container. But one surgery is one whole container shipped round the world to a country that has to have a port to receive the large containers in the first place which means generally they have shipping containers available already! wouldn’t it make more sense to send a shipping container full of flat pack surgeries and whatever else is needed? Lets face it no point having a medical mission with no bandages and other supplies yet no doubt you can fit 3 – 4 surgeries inside one shipping container flat pack as well as medical supplies and tools for construction saving on shipping cost and construction costs at western salary rates.

Back to the port they arrive at and no doubt you have skilled workers here capable of cutting shipping containers for adaptions for the windows,doors etc as well as pre-batten the walls before the rest of the materials arrive. All hands to the pumps when it comes to helping out Haiti I hear and yet you can thank the Obama administration,lobbyists and corporations for keeping the minimum wage down in Haiti making construction on the dockside more viable at a minimum daily wage of less than $5.00 a day. Was supposed to be raised to $5.00 (ended up at $3.00 after pressure was added to Haiti from the U.S. Government).

Still the US Embassy wasn’t pleased. A deputy chief of mission, David E. Lindwall, said the $5 per day minimum “did not take economic reality into account” but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to “the unemployed and underpaid masses.”

Back on topic generally where there are disasters there are out of work people capable of doing the work even if they have to be supervised there is no doubt aid workers on site that should be capable of taking up the task of following simple construction methods. When you look at a shipping container they are standard building blocks which are also easy to work with the same reasons they were chosen in the first place. When I see so called aid companies quoting $60,000 for a shipping container clinic I have to wonder why isn’t it done for less than $20,000 as there is very little specialist equipment involved showing cash simply disappears no doubt on labour and other costs that would be a fraction of the cost if done in the country where its going.

Construction could even go a step further and be prepared in kit form with rapid installation utilizing metal stud partitions for example that pot rivet to the sides or wooden battens that are glued and bonded which for any tradesman would see a quick turn round on construction.

But these are for crisis management! I would agree in many cases at the same time your shoving them on ships for weeks to months to reach final destination construction on the dockside if the kits are prepared properly how long? They can be painted, cut and fabricated ahead of the parts arriving meaning it should only take 1-2 weeks to construct completely. At the same time if its so urgent why wasn’t the containers in the country in the first place before the disaster? considering most disasters are seasonal weather issues these days.