Caravans pose logistical problems

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that those “caravans” of would-be immigrants headed for our Mexico/US border are generating quite a bit of discussion among the everyday, ordinary folks hereabouts. One of the more interesting conversations I’ve had on this subject was with Paul, a guy now retired from a career in logistics – which he described as including getting people from one place to another along with the necessary supplies and equipment to do so. He wasn’t much concerned with the politics surrounding the caravans such as why these folks feel entitled to enter this country. Nope, his attention was with the logistical aspects.

I was a bit surprised at his response to my question about what the first problem that came to his mind concerning these thousands of people on the march. He told me it was water. Yep, getting them enough water. He pointed out that, in general, our bodies require a half a gallon or more water every day to avoid dehydration which can be very serious. For men, the amount is about three quarts and is about two quarts for women and somewhat less for children.

He wasn’t sure what the amount would be for pregnant or breast feeding women, but assumed it would be closer to that for men. He also noted that water can come in various fluid forms such as soups or from some foods that are high in water content.

He continued that, regardless of the source, we need a daily intake of water because our bodies constantly get rid of water through by the obvious means of sweating and urination but also through bowel movements and even breathing. And so, his first concern would be about getting some 500 gallons or more drinkable water a day for each thousand adults – and doing so while they were on the move. He figured this would be a continuing logistical problem and wondered how it’s being handled and by whom.

Also of interest to Paul is how to provide enough food for the masses of people as they make their way towards the US border. Paul asked if I had any idea what it would take to provide a single meal for a hundred people, much less two or three meals a day for thousands – and for weeks on end. This is not a trivial question because the marchers can’t carry enough food with them for their journey and it’s doubtful if they have enough money to purchase it along the way. It has to come from somewhere and be of sufficient quantity and nutritional value to sustain the marchers – including children of all ages. Once again Paul sees this as a logistical problem and is curious about how it is being resolved.

Paul moved on to what he sees as another logistics complication. As he put it, the body generates both solid and liquid waste that must be disposed of and he didn’t see any “porta-potties” in the pictures of the line of march.

Yep, what to do with all those many gallons of urine and hundreds of pounds of feces each day must be considered a problem. He also noted what he called the “diaper dilemma” in that pictures of the marchers show a number of diaper-age children. He wonders whether their diapers are reusable – in which case they needed to be washed and dried – or if they are disposable and must be gotten rid of properly and replaced with new ones. Hadn’t thought of that, but it sure makes a body wonder.

Paul had some other concerns, such as health and shelter issues that I won’t go into, but what he was very interested in is where all this basic logistical support is coming from. There are reports of how residents, communities, and local governments along the way are providing some food and water but successfully meeting the demands of such a number of marchers over a considerable period of time almost certainly requires more than a catch-as-catch- can operation.

Our conversation kinda wrapped up with Paul noting that these problems will greatly increase as the number of would-be immigrants at the Mexico/US border, currently estimated to be in the thousands, continues to grow. He also commented that there is an increasing sentiment that we somehow have responsibility for these folks and should allow them to enter our country. This would mean that we would assume the burden of providing them with food, water, shelter, health care – and even diapers – for an indefinite period of time. Paul figures it could be done, but would be costly.

Well, there you have it – a quick summary of the “take” on the caravan situation by a guy who spent a career in moving people and stuff around. Sounds like he knows what he is talking about. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at

Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at