Red Cross says support still needed one year after Irma | THE DAILY HERALD

~ Focusses on home repairs and rebuilding lives ~


SIMPSON BAY–One year ago Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten with devastating power. Today, the people on the island are still coping with the aftermath of the disaster. The Red Cross helps St. Maarteners rebuilding their lives with the 19.9 million euros donated by the Dutch public during the “The Netherlands help St. Maarten” fundraiser. In the first months after the hurricane the Red Cross helped more than 25,000 people with supplies such as food, drinking water and tarps. Later, vulnerable families were given food vouchers, and schoolchildren were provided breakfast and a warm lunch every day. Now, the focus has shifted more to long-term aid, such as repairing homes hurricane-proof.

“In St. Maarten you can still see the damage inflicted by Irma. Boats thrown on shore, roofs covered with tarpaulins, and debris. After a hurricane of this scale, long-term aid is needed. There are people who have lost literally everything – their job and their home. That is why the Red Cross will invest at least three years in this aid,” says Marieke van Schaik of the Netherlands Red Cross.

To support the people of St. Maarten, the Red Cross provided more than 3,000 schoolchildren with a daily breakfast and warm lunch. In total 875,782 meals were served to children at 18 primary and five high schools. Many parents lost their jobs and this programme took away concerns about providing healthy meals to their children.

Supermarket vouchers were given to support vulnerable families as well as the elderly, sick and unemployed. Four vouchers with a value of US $83 each enabled them to purchase food and other items to meet their daily needs. A total of 16,888 food vouchers were distributed.

Shortly after the hurricane, more than 116,700 litres of drinking water, 11,800 tarps and 8,000 food packages were handed out.

After the hurricane it was apparent that children needed more support. Some of the funds donated in the Netherlands went to UNICEF and the government to help schools with disaster-preparedness programmes and reinforcing school buildings. Additionally, teachers have been trained to give children psychosocial assistance.

“We help children by supporting them in different ways. If you look around you in St. Maarten you still see the impact of the hurricane everywhere, also in the lives of children,” says Aid Coordinator for UNICEF in the Netherlands Marieke Roelfsema about a recent visit to the island.

Many people in St. Maarten still have to repair their homes. “Build Back Better” workshops enable the Red Cross to share the necessary expertise, after which attendees receive vouchers to purchase the correct building materials. Hurricane Irma hit the entire region. Therefore, building supplies have to be brought in from long distances and there is a shortage of skilled contractors. Consequently, the Home Repair programme has been delayed. The Red Cross wants to deliver sound technical advice and needed to recruit personnel from abroad. With staff now in place, the Red Cross is working hard to help as many people as quickly as possible.

Source: The Daily Herald