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Oct 15, 2001

Despite criticisms NEMO gears up in P.G.

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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 centre.

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.

Jeromey Augustine

“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 already.”

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.

Jeromey Augustine

“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.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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