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Jamaica organising support for St Vincent and the Grenadines


MINISTER of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie says the Jamaican Government is organising support for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), now being affected by the La Soufriere volcano.

“Our Government has been in contact with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and we are organising logistical and other forms of support to our brothers and sisters there. We are also fully aware that this devastating event has evoked great concern from our corporate and general citizenry. We are working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and other private sector partners, which include the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporter’s Association, to finalise relief efforts.

“An account numbered 212387304 has also been opened at the National Commercial Bank, Oxford Place Branch, to accept donations from the public,” McKenzie said.

“The Government is honoured to stand with the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines in this difficult hour, and we reaffirm the concern for and the friendship we feel with them as part of the Caribbean family, as together, we see this period through until the return of normal life,” said the minister.

United Way of Jamaica (UWJ), on Monday this week, launched a disaster relief fund to offer assistance to the Caribbean island.

Approximately 16,000 people are living in areas under evacuation orders, with thousands who have fled for safety, since the volcano started a series of eruptions on Friday, April 9.

The volcano’s explosive phase is expected to last several days or even weeks, according to the Seismic Research Centre at The University of the West Indies (UWI), which advised residents to avoid inhaling the volcanic ash.

Speaking at the press conference, UWJ Chair Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham said the organisation has partnered with Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) for the disaster relief fund.

“Our neighbours in St Vincent and the Grenadines need our full support,” she said. “We stand ready to assist through our network, as we are uniquely positioned to provide immediate disaster response,” said Cunningham, adding that UWJ has already donated $250,000.

Cunningham told the Jamaica Observer that a number of commitments have been made so far and UWJ is expecting to receive all donations in the next two to three weeks.

She also stressed that cash donations would be better to purchase well-needed supplies such as water, feminine products, baby products, bedding, respiratory equipment, and masks, face shields and sanitisers to observe COVID-19 protocols.

Abul Nasir Khan, operations coordinator at International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent also commented on the challenges faced on the island.

“The most immediate needs of persons include maternal and child care for those staying in the highest areas and shelter and hygiene items and COVID-19 prevention items for those who are being evacuated,” he stressed.

Pointing to research from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Khan said people in shelters were in urgent need of blankets, personal hygiene kits and COVID-19 kits.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demands that sanitation be of utmost importance and as such, additional cleaning supplies and an excess of portable water are needed because the water is very bad there. People are in need of clean drinking water for washing, cleaning and cooking,” he added.

In the meanwhile, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said, “It is all hands on deck,” as the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) joins in mobilising support for tourism recovery in St Vincent and Grenadines.

“The bringing together of global tourism leaders was critical in providing a platform to generate support for St Vincent and the Grenadines, which is in dire need of help following the recent volcanic eruption,” Bartlett said yesterday, after chairing a global tourism summit with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and global tourism partners to discuss recovery efforts for the island.

“Together we must strategise the way forward for the quick recovery of SVG, and all other Caribbean countries being impacted. This is imperative, given the fact that this environmental crisis is likely to make matters worse for the small, undiversified, affected economies that have been facing over a year of steep and historic decline in tourism revenues,” Bartlett said.

“From a tourism standpoint, the latest development will obviously set back the recovery of the tourism and travel sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines and other affected countries, including the heavily tourism-dependent Barbados, indefinitely,” said Bartlett.

He said that a follow-up meeting is to be convened to get the full list of needs and to finalise a strategy which will be led by the GTRCMC.

The meeting involved several members of the World Travel and Tourism Council and Organization of American States, regional ministers of tourism, as well as over 150 high level tourism stakeholders.

Prime Minister Gonsalves expressed his appreciation of the outpouring of support and gave an update of the areas being affected by the volcanic ash.

According to Professor Lloyd Waller, executive director of the GTRCMC, one of the objectives is to act as a crisis management intermediary.

“We act as the middle person between diverse parties. In other words, we bring together destinations in crisis and the support mechanisms, tools, people, and strategy that is needed to recover from, survive or thrive from a crisis,” Professor Waller said.

“In this regard, our role is all-encompassing and can involve anything, from negotiating contracts, identifying support, providing technical support, or providing information to all parties about the status of destinations or other factors which threaten or can transform the tourism ecosystem,” he added.

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