Jamaica relief efforts in Haiti coming to an end
Jamaica is now winding up its operations in Haiti as CARICOM gets ready to switch focus in the earthquake-ravaged country from relief and rescue to reconstruction.
Information Minister Daryl Vaz disclosed yesterday that medical and other relief personnel should start returning to the island over the next two days.
Speaking to journalists at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Vaz said Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers would be the last to leave Haiti on March 19.
The entire Jamaican contingent was expected to be out of Haiti tomorrow, but Vaz said Cabinet decided to leave the JDF there for another two weeks, after CARICOM agreed to stand the cost.
He explained that the additional two weeks was to provide a transition period that would allow other Caribbean countries to pick up where Jamaica left off with little disruption.
Despite a daily tab of $773,000, Vaz said the cost to the Government has been minimal, with $40 million provided by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
Ironically, the information minister said Jamaica waived landing fees and other airport costs totalling US$90,000 for aircraft transporting relief supplies and personnel to Haiti.
In addition, he said the fund set up by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management now stands at more than $10 million.
Vaz said this would be used to fund Jamaica's contribution to the medical recovery and response operations in Haiti.
A total of 350 Jamaicans rotated in and out of Haiti conducting medical, military and search-and-rescue operations after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake near the capital, Port-au-Prince, on January 12. More than 200,000 people were killed and close to a million left homeless in one of the worst disasters to ever hit Haiti.