No matter how much aid is received in the wake of a disaster, it means
nothing if it doesn't reach the people who need it. Over the weekend News
5's Jacqueline Woods and Brent Toombs travelled to Punta Gorda to see how
NEMO was coping with the situation.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
The National Emergency Management Organisation has received some criticism
for the way it's been responding to the needs of the hurricane victims. But
when we visited NEMO headquarters in Punta Gorda, operations seemed to be
running smoothly, with chairpersons from the affected villages arriving
regularly at the compound to pick up their supplies from the distribution
NEMO's district co-ordinator, Jeromey Augustine, admits that they got off
to a slow start and it took some time for villages to get assistance. But,
Augustine claims an efficient system has been put in place and most
communities are getting the relief they badly need.
Jeromey Augustine, District Co-ordinator, NEMO
"In the beginning it was kind of difficult because we didn't have that much
supplies. But right now we're getting in a lot of food and material stuffs,
so we're trying to get it out to the villages now."
Augustine says because it was difficult to get into some of the remote
villages those areas did not receive immediate help until NEMO got
helicopter assistance from the British Military.
"In villages like Jordan, Santa Elena, Medina and people over Deep River,
they weren't getting supplies because of the road conditions. Jordan for
example, the bridge was broken and I think up to now the river is still
high, but we did some airlifting yesterday, so they got their supplies
Today, NEMO has been distributing at least three to four days of supplies.
But when we travelled through some of the remote areas in the Toledo
District we were told that some families are still without food, water and
medical supplies. However, NEMO contends that they have been monitoring the
distribution of supplies and people are getting help.
"We have a system, we have a request form and whatever supplies go out, the
chairperson or General Arthurs or myself as the district co-ordinator has
to sign before they get any supply, so we could keep track. And in our EOC
room, we have charts on the walls that tell us exactly how many rations
they get and when they will need a re-supply."
NEMO has been greatly assisted by the Belize Red Cross and other local
organisations. International help has also been received. Jeremy Collymore,
co-ordinator of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency, spent
three days in the country working along with NEMO's Deputy Co-ordinator,
Brigadier General, Earl Arthurs.
Jeremy Collymore, Co-ordinator, CDERA
"Some significant progress has been made in the institutional procedures
etcetera. What I think Iris demonstrates, is the need for a little more
attention to the destruction operational planning at the DEMO level and how
to resource this. And I am aware that an ongoing institutional
strengthening project will attend to some of these issues. But this event
has given us a better focus of what we need to do."
The hurricane victims, especially the children, have been receiving help to
deal with the tragedy. A mental health team working with the Ministry of
Human Development is in the area to counsel the families.
Dr. Shirlene Smith-Augustine, Co-ordinator, Counselling Prog.
"More than likely the children may have difficulties in school. We're
having reports of kids having difficulty sleeping, having nightmares,
whenever the sky blackens to indicate rain they become very frightened. So
those are things they if not addressed and addressed effectively, can
contribute to further and future distress among the children."
The months ahead will be a difficult time for the hurricane victims and an
ongoing relief effort will help them to cope the situation. If you would
like to assist, you can get in touch with the Belize Red Cross at telephone
number 73319. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.