Government has committed US$1M towards assistance for Haiti, which has suffered from a massive earthquake and several aftershocks, and has established a multi-stakeholder committee, chaired by Minister of Human Services, Priya Manickchand, to oversee the effort.
In a statement released today, President Bharrat Jagdeo said, "I was deeply shocked and saddened at the extent of the destruction caused by the catastrophic earthquake which devastated our sister nation of Haiti yesterday. The haunting images of bodies, injured persons and ruined buildings struck a chord of compassion throughout our nation for the people of Haiti."
"Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere is now severely challenged to cope with this tragedy. Haiti needs all countries, including the small developing countries to come to its aid urgently."
As a result, the President organized a meeting of various stakeholders, which included the opposition political parties, religious organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), at the Office of the President to coordinate a national effort by Guyana to render the assistance needed.
The earthquake, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 on the Richter scale, was centered approximately 15 kilometres from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and struck at around 17:00 hours local time on Tuesday, January 12.
Most of Port-au-Prince's major landmarks were significantly damaged or destroyed in the earthquake, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, the main jail and at least one hospital, and the Haitian President has said that possibly hundreds of thousands of people have died.
Speaking with the Government Information Agency (GINA) after the meeting, Minister Manickchand noted that while an assessment of the full impact of the earthquake is still to come, the need to act quickly is critical, noting that all parties involved in the meeting recognized the urgency of the situation.
She indicated that the first meeting of the committee will be held tomorrow at the Civil Defence Commission, and stakeholders will identify the persons who will serve on the committee.
Several of the participants involved in the meeting praised the President's leadership and the speed with which Government has responded to the crisis. They have also called on Guyanese to be forthcoming in rendering assistance to Haitians, both in financial contributions and goods.
Minister Manickchand noted that the relief efforts will be two-pronged: immediate assistance will focus on relieving the ongoing human suffering while the long-term effort will seek to rebuild the country.