Gov’t pledges initial US$50,000 in hurricane relief

President David Granger (centre at right side of table) convened a high-level Ministerial Meeting to discuss Guyana’s response to hurricane-hit territories of the Caribbean region. The high-level team included: Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan; Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge; Minister of Public Affairs, Dawn Hastings-Williams and Minister with Responsibility for the Public Service, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.  (Ministry of the Presidency photo)

The Government of Guyana yesterday pledged an initial sum of US$50,000 ($10.4m) to aid relief efforts via the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) regional mechanism after Hurricane Irma smashed through several islands including St Martin and Tortola which have large numbers of Guyanese.

A Ministry of the Presidency press release yesterday said that further assistance will be determined subsequent to the completion of a Needs Assessment. The aid announcement was made yesterday  following a high-level meeting convened by President David Granger at State House. The press release said that the Head of State has tasked the team with ensuring that Guyana’s response also “comprehensively addresses” the needs of Guyanese citizens, who are residing in the affected territories.

In addition, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo will Head a Ministerial Task Force that will be responsible for oversight of the efforts of the Civil Defence Commission’s (CDC) National Risk Reduction Platform.

“We are concerned about our Nationals in these Caribbean territories ravaged by Hurricane Irma and the possible harm that will be caused by Hurricane Jose and we want to reach out to them… The Task Force, first and foremost, will try to access information about the number of Guyanese affected and the places where they are affected and to make general appeals to Guyanese in the Caribbean to get in touch with the Consulates in those areas or in other parts, where they can access Consulate services. We need the information as to Guyanese who may want to be evacuated or who may want assistance in this point in time of a specific nature,” the Prime Minister said.

He added that over the next few days, robust efforts will be made to keep an open line of communication to ensure that relatives of those in hurricane-hit zones are provided with the necessary information regarding their loved ones.

“We will work to render assistance to Guyanese nationals in Caribbean countries and generally to the affected states themselves. We want to be able to have an inventory of students, who are on scholarships in Cuba and in other parts of the Caribbean and to see to it that such information is provided to their families,” the Prime Minister said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge said that Cuba has better infrastructure than many of the other Caribbean countries and noted that from current reports, the Ministry has no reason to believe that scholarship students are in any danger or have suffered seriously.  Nevertheless, the Ministry will be setting up a web portal to facilitate communication between those affected and their families as well as the authorities in Guyana.

As he told Stabroek News on Sunday, Greenidge said that the lack of communication is one of the major difficulties that the regional response effort faces. While there is a basic framework for communication such as Honorary Consul, Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives, the storm has ravaged communications infrastructure, especially in places like St. Maarten, St. Barts and Barbuda, Greenidge said.

“If you call the Honorary Counsel in any one of these places few of them could respond because either the electricity or the communications network is down so we are using whatever mechanisms we can…”, he added.

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