- Written by CONOR KING DEVITT
- Published: 10 October 2017
Government has been working with the BVI Red Cross, Rotary and a network of other aid organisations to provide the people of the territory with the goods and assistance necessary to move forward.
Organising local agencies and the nearly 20 international groups in the territory has been a difficult task, but officials said they are now confident the relief effort is streamlined.
Tasha Bertie, deputy secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Development, has begun leading weekly meetings with organisation representatives for that specific purpose.
“When we’re all around the table we can get a basic understanding to make sure that we’re not duplicating efforts,” Ms. Bertie said. “That’s working well, in my opinion.”
Helen Frett, director of the BVIRC, agreed.
“It’s been coordinated,” she said.
For members of the general public, Tortola’s relief effort has and will largely come in two forms: distribution centres that offer supplies to specific districts, and household deliveries based on community needs assessments.
The BVIRC plans to deliver tarps, kitchen sets, cleaning items, mosquito nets, insect repellants and jerry cans to households in need across the territory, according to Ms. Frett.
The items are coming from a RC warehouse in Panama and were purchased by funds from the British RC, explained Anna Dobai, the team leader of the British RC emergency needs delegates assisting the BVIRC.
On Sept. 7, the British RC launched an appeal for donations to victims of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. The British government promised to match any funds raised up to £3 million.
Some of the supplies will be donated to people living in the shelters: For four weeks, RC volunteers have been gathering statistics from the shelters and identifying the needs of people still living in them, according to Ms. Dobai. Those statistics are reported to DDM.
|This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2017 print edition.|
“They also try to identify those who can return to their home if they got certain supplies,” Ms. Frett said.
Air delivery of those supplies — originally slated to come through San Juan — was delayed after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. They finally arrived to the Virgin Islands on Wednesday, however.
Through DDM, a variety of different donors are supplying similar items, Ms. Dobai added.
The Department of Disaster Management’s Sept. 30 situation report provides a list of regional and international partners who have provided assistance in the territory. The list — which by this edition’s publication date may be incomplete — includes:
• The Pan-American Health Organisation
• The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
• Department for International Development
• UN Women
• United Nations Children Fund
• Specialist of Royal Engineers, United Kingdom Military
• Civil Military Cooperation
• Serve On
• Team Rubicon
• Caribbean Association of Fire Fighters
• British Red Cross
• British Telecommunications
• UK police
• UK military
• Police forces of British overseas territories and Crown Dependencies
• Catholic Relief Services
• Adventist Development Relief Agency
• Convoy of Hope
• Public Health England
• Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation
The BVIRC also plans to distribute “dignity kits,” which contain female health and hygiene items, in addition to adult diapers, both of which have been donated by UN Women, Ms. Frett explained.
The BVIRC will distribute the initial shipment of goods to District Six first, and then to Districts Five, Four and Jost Van Dyke, as well as providing tarps for Her Majesty’s Prison, the RC officials explained.
Those areas were selected due to their levels of damage, Ms. Frett explained.
Government finished conducting needs assessments in those districts and plans to finish assessing all other districts by this weekend, Ms. Bertie explained.
“The intent is to use this information to address the needs of the more vulnerable groups within the population,” she said.
They will also be shared with the National Emergency Operations Centre and form part of the NEOC’s final reports, which are normally released to the public, the deputy secretary added.
Rotary has been assisting government with sorting supplies at the Festival Village Grounds and delivering them to the distribution centres throughout the territory.
In an interview with the Beacon on Tuesday, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith also noted that the district representatives were facilitating supply deliveries to the elderly and other residents who might have trouble accessing the centres.
For those wishing to donate from at home or abroad, some supplies are needed more than others.
“We don’t need any more clothes,” Ms. Frett said. “Three 40-foot containers of clothes came in.”
Cash donations are often the most effective.
“I think that anyone that lives outside the territory should think about donating funds,” Ms. Dobai explained, “because for every item you ship, you’ve got shipping fees. This is the case for all disasters: If organisations like the Red Cross received the money, that would have been the cost of the items sent plus the cost to send them: We [could have done] a lot with that money.”
The British RC delegate also pointed to the twofold benefit of cash donations: Not only are they used to help an individual or family in need, they can also serve as an injection into the local economy and assist local business.
Ms. Dobai praised the population’s optimism and the community’s work in the past month.
“I think perhaps people here have a sense that everything’s going slowly,” she said. “Now from my perspective, having been in a large number of disaster areas over a long period of time, things are really going quite fast here. Because the whole definition of a disaster is something that’s bigger than your capacity to respond. And this was a really, really large disaster.”