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Jamaica joins Haiti relief efforts

Thursday, January 14, 2010    

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JAMAICA has joined scores of countries sending relief supplies to Haiti to help millions of people displaced by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake which struck the impoverished nation on Tuesday, leaving thousands dead or injured in its wake.

Between last night and this morning a team of 150 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers were set to leave for Haiti to bring supplies as well as to help in the reconstruction efforts.

The supplies include generators, collapsable water containers, mattresses, water purification tablets and general purpose tents.

Information minister Daryl Vaz yesterday told journalists at the post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House that the team would consist of engineers and some medical personnel.

In the meantime, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) said they have established an account -- # 212 387 304 -- at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) for donations.

Additionally, the disaster agency is also receiving donations in kind at the Montpelier office in St James with plans to establish a similar facility at the emergency supplies warehouse in Kingston or at ODPEM's offices.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Bruce Golding in a statement issued yesterday said he has already made contact with Haiti's president René Préval and assured him of Jamaica's commitment to help.

According to Golding, early reports are that millions of people in the capital, Port-au-Prince, have lost shelter and access to food and sanitation.

"Jamaica has always responded immediately in whatever way we can to natural disasters in Haiti and this time will be no exception," Golding said.

He explained that Jamaica's help will be a part of international co-ordinated efforts to move food and medical supplies into the country and also to help Jamaican and Caricom nationals to return home.

Golding said JDF members will participate in reconstruction efforts that will enable basic infrastructure of electricity, water and telecommunications to function again.

Meanwhile, more help continues to pour out of Jamaica with telecommunications giant Digicel donating US$5 million which will go towards non-government organisations in Haiti, to support the massive relief effort to help rebuild that country.

The company said it would also be launching donation lines for the public to make donations, and this will be further supported with a press, radio and television appeal campaign.

In a statement issued yesterday, Digicel said whilst its Turgeau building in Port-au-Prince withstood the quake and some 900 employees evacuated safely from the building, two of its staff members were killed.

Digicel said the communication system is currently operational, despite being somewhat damaged. However, some persons may continue to experience problems making and receiving calls from that country due to the unprecedented amount of people trying to contact friends and family in Haiti.

"This morning we sent a team of our technical experts to Haiti to assess exactly what the situation is on the ground and what support the team in Haiti needs in terms of network equipment and emergency aid," Digicel said yesterday.

Milton Samuda, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, yesterday appealed to its members and all Jamaicans to generously support fund-raising and collection efforts and to make donations through established avenues such as ODPEM, United Way of Jamaica, Food for the Poor and the Jamaica Red Cross.

"...We urge the Government and people of Jamaica to respond with a level of human concern which will encourage them to urgently transmit to the government and people of Haiti whatever assistance is possible," Samuda said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department said it will use its fast-track relief funding to provide a ¤3- million initial package of humanitarian assistance.

The funding will be used to meet basic needs of the stricken population including shelter and medical assistance. Funding is channelled through experienced international relief organisations.

And NCB said it will be facilitating the drop-off of donations of kind such as canned/non-perishable food, clean clothes, linen, bottled water and toiletries at its branches islandwide.

Yesterday afternoon the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands held a special midday service at the Kingston Parish Church, South Parade, downtown Kingston as a show of solidarity with the people of Haiti.

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