– GMSA says $20M in relief has been raised for SVG
By Vishani Ragobeer
THE first shipment of relief supplies from Guyana to the southern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which has been contending with continuous volcanic eruptions, arrived on the island on Saturday morning, prompting its Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to call the benefactor a “Good Samaritan” for coming to their aid.
This first shipment of supplies was transported on board the vessel, ‘Miss Meena’, and Dr. Gonsalves and a few government officials were on site to welcome the crew and receive the items. These relief items will be distributed to those people who have been staying at shelters in safe zones across the island.
“This is a significant shipment; it is 350 tonnes! That is a big donation!” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying. He also highlighted that he has been advised that there will be further donations coming from Guyana. He also told members of the Vincentian media that he is also aware that a bank account has been set up in Guyana to organise funds for not only emergency relief but for reconstruction as well.
“In the days where things were a little more difficult in Guyana, I used to always say that Guyana would be the head cornerstone in CARICOM,” Dr. Gonsalves said, adding: “It is almost like a biblical prophecy that has become fulfilled, and I am very happy to see that.”
While thanking the Government of Guyana and President Dr. Irfaan Ali for the relief, the Vincentian Prime Minister said, “I want to say that with the renewed bond of friendship, and this act of solidarity, one cannot help but remember in the Bible the story of the Good Samaritan.”
The supplies organised for the country include water, sanitation supplies, hygiene products and food items. Recently, President Ali emphasised that continuous support will be provided to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as efforts, in collaboration with the private sector, will continue.
“Another shipment of items is being prepared for departure on Monday, April 19; that would include water, sugar, rice, assorted food items and personal care and hygiene items,” a recent release from the Office of the President stated.
Cognisant that water supplies are much-needed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and also in Barbados, which latter Caribbean nation has been affected by volcanic ash from La Soufrière, President Ali also committed to sending a further 50 water tanks to SVG and another 50 to Barbados in response to an appeal from that nation’s Prime Minister, Ms. Mia Mottley.
Before the supplies were loaded onto the ‘Miss Meena’ vessel on Monday, President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), Mr. Rafeek Khan told this newspaper that the private sector was able to raise about $8M in cash, and about five container-loads of cargo, including food, as well as sanitation and hygiene supplies.
On Saturday, however, a release from the GMSA noted that by April 16, an approximate cumulative total of G$20,000,000 (in cash and supplies) were contributed by the membership. Khan also called upon GMSA members to donate and pledge more support to the continued relief efforts.
Meanwhile, with some Guyanese who have been living in SVG showing an interest in returning to Guyana in the wake of ongoing volcanic eruptions on the island, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr. Hugh Todd recently told this newspaper that possible repatriation arrangements are being assessed.
There are about 4,500 Guyanese living on the island of St. Vincent alone, which has been facing volcanic eruptions since Friday, and Guyana’s Honorary Consul to the island, Mr. Nigel Russell, highlighted that there has been an outpouring of support among the Guyanese population to get through the crisis. The Honorary Consul noted that his priority is ensuring that Guyanese living on the island are safely evacuated and relocated from the danger zones. Having done that, he said that the consulate is now focused on taking care of the needs of the people.
“On the ground here, there will always be needs. The biggest need is water, and what I have asked Guyana, initially, is to get us some water, and to get us some goggles to deal with the (volcanic) ash, and face masks,” Russell related.
And, though individuals have opened up their homes to accommodate others, he acknowledged that eventually, personal supplies will run low, and people will require some assistance. It is for this reason that the consulate has been making a list to send to the local authorities, so that relief can be provided.