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Government halts Haiti pull-out

Published:Friday | February 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The Government has put the brakes on its plan to pull its relief teams from earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The Golding administration had claimed that the failure of regional partners to cough up their share of the money to finance the relief effort had left it with no option but to call home the troops.

However, Information Minister Daryl Vaz yesterday announced that the Government had decided to suspend the withdrawal of Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) troops.

According to Vaz, the decision was made after the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) confirmed it would send J$40 million to cover expenses incurred by Jamaica so far.

"CDEMA has committed to send us J$10 million today (yesterday) and approved an additional J$30 million to cover our expenses up to January 30," Vaz said.

According to Vaz, a representative of CDEMA is to meet with Jamaican officials today to discuss further assistance to sustain the troops in Haiti.

Final decision saturday

"We have put the withdrawal on hold pending that meeting and the final decision will be made by the prime minister when he returns on Saturday," said Vaz.

"It is important that we get firm commitments on recovering our expenses as Jamaica is not in a position to continue our assistance in Haiti without the requisite funding," Vaz added.

The JDF base in Port-au-Prince has been open since January 14, two days after the earthquake destroyed that city.

The base facilitates CARICOM troops and Jamaican health workers who have been key to the rescue-and-relief efforts since the earthquake.

However, it is costing Jamaica approximately $773,000 per day to maintain the relief operation in the city.

That is a sacrifice not lost on the government of Haiti which has written to the Jamaican Government expressing appreciation for its efforts.

According to Rodney Marcellus, Haitian ambassador to Jamaica, the people and government of that country were grateful for the love, compassion and support that Jamaicans have given to them.

He said that while the needs of Haiti remain enormous, the resilience of its people cannot be counted out.