Jamaica: USAID hands over emergency relief supplies

A plane loaded with emergency relief supplies valued at more than US$398,000 arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport from the United States, on (August 22), to assist families affected by Hurricane Dean, which battered the island on August 19.

The items, which included mattresses, blankets, plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and water containers were donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Brenda La Grange Johnson, who was at the airport to receive the supplies, said that although Jamaica was spared the worst ravages of Hurricane Dean, many Jamaicans are homeless, and as such the United States will continue to provide assistance where necessary.

Mrs. La Grange Johnson noted that former Ambassadors to Jamaica, Sue Cobb and Glen Holden and herself have donated a total of US$60,000 to begin a private fund with the Missionaries of the Poor and the American Friends of Jamaica.

"We are so happy to make this start and we hope it is only the beginning. We are friends of Jamaica and we are here to help," she said.

Meanwhile, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, who was on hand to accept the supplies, expressed gratitude to the USAID, noting that the supplies would go a far way in assisting those persons worst affected by Hurricane Dean.

Mr. Jackson pointed out that the supplies would be distributed to the worst affected areas on the South Coast, including Clarendon, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth, Manchester and Kingston.

The Director General appealed to Jamaicans to be patient and co-operate with the ODPEM teams who are working to address priority needs, such as roofing and bedding. "We want to ask the general public, those affected by Hurricane Dean to bear with the welfare team and the ODPEM as we seek to meet these needs," he said.

"We are going to be focusing on the priorities and roofing has been identified as essential.We found that the hurricane took a lot of roofs. somewhere in the region of over 1,500 roofs were lost and so therefore that is priority. Bedding is going to be a priority because without the roofs, these sleeping items would have been soaked," Mr. Jackson explained.

The supplies will be distributed through non-governmental organizations and relief groups such as the Salvation Army, Food for the Poor and the Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA).

"We will be moving these supplies from here to a warehouse and then from that point we will be calling on these agencies to receive them, to distribute them. We are going to hold them accountable for the distribution process and to provide us with reporting," he said.

The country is also expected to receive further relief assistance from Spain, Cayman Islands and other persons in the Diaspora.

Since 2000, USAID has provided more than US$142 million in response to the devastating effects of hurricanes and tropical storms through the Caribbean and Central America.