Dominica’s prime minister has pledged assistance from his cabinet, the OECS and CARICOM less than a week after Hurricane Irma ravaged several Caribbean islands and left thousands of residents in search of refuge.
In an emergency press conference, Roosevelt Skerrit stressed the urgency of supplying food, water, human resource and monetary contributions to St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Anguilla, St Martin and Cuba.
While St Kitts emerged as the least damaged of the islands in the region, Irma marauded across the chain to leave destruction in Barbuda. One facility, a young child, has been confirmed.
Yesterday, officials announced that two more bodies had been discovered in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of St Martin, bring the number of deaths from Hurricane in the Caribbean to at least 37.
For BVI, where the death toll was most recently reported to be at five, the full damage from Irma has not yet been calculated, but the early estimates are grim.
In Cuba, although there have been no reported fatalities or casualties, Havana also awoke on Sunday morning to substantial damage.
For all of the islands in the long days since Irma’s battering, reports have emerged of survivors struggling in the face of severe food and water shortages, and the absence of electricity and phone service.
For many of these territories, including the ones overseen by Britain, France and the Netherlands, the Dominican government has offered relief in the next few days to help maintain order and assist with relief efforts.
“To Antigua we are making a direct contribution of US$250,000; to St Kitts and Nevis, EC$500,000; to St Thomas, US$200,000, and to Cuba, US$250,000,” Skerrit announced.
The prime minister explained that Anguilla, St Martin and BVI all expressed that in lieu of funds their urgent needs for assistance are in the form of dry goods, water and sheltering supplies.
In response to this, Minister for Justice, Immigration and National Security, Rayburn Blackmoore, revealed that Dominica has already mobilised its efforts to ship two containers of dry goods and water to St Martin today (Tuesday), and one container with the same items to Anguilla and Tortola.
“We have had discussions with our suppliers to ensure the quick dispatch of those items to the various discussions,” he said.
“We have also set up a bank account in the National Bank of Dominica so persons who want to make financial contributions can do so and place the money in the bank account.”
Returning the favour
The government of Dominica met with the private sector and other interest groups last week and put together a joint committee to spearhead their relief support to neighbouring islands.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, disaster risk management and communications specialist Cecile Shillingford pointed out that while Dominica is also assisting its neighbours in a time of need, it is important to note that several Dominicans are also residents of these countries.
“We must also recall the outpouring from these countries when we ourselves had our situation [tropical storm Erika] two years ago,” he said.
“We think water is a very important thing at this point, so we will be looking at the possibility of barging [larger quantities as a follow up to the shipments of bottled water].”
With the school term among us, the prime minister announced that the idea of hosting displaced students in Dominica will be explored.
By Wednesday, he added, monetary assistance for Dominicans living in the affected islands will be formally sought from new citizens of Dominica.
“We are looking at the possibility of setting up a fund especially for Dominicans residing on these affected islands.
“I will be writing to new citizens of high net worth to call on them to make a contribution to their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.”