Service organisations dig deeper to respond to growing needs of vulnerable residents

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By Theresa Goodwin

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Two of the more prominent humanitarian organisations in Antigua and Barbuda have identified food as the greatest need for thousands of residents who are currently unemployed due to the dreaded coronavirus.

The Salvation Army and the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross Society as well as several other service organisations have been forced to implement a number of programmes and fundraisers in response to a growing need for food and clothing in some instances.

District Officer of the Salvation Army Major Jean Miller Contave said the organisation is hoping that some of these needs could be fulfilled through the organisation’s biggest fundraiser, the Christmas Kettle Appeal, that was launched last Friday. This year’s target is $150,000.

“It seems to me this is the greatest need. Already twice a month we help some 103 families with food vouchers and while we do help people with clothing but, more and more of them are requesting food,” he said.

“We realise that the need is great and this is the mission of the Salvation Army; to alleviate the situation of those people who are in need.”

The proceeds from the Kettle and Letter Appeals will go towards providing care packages and gift items for more than 2,000 people.

The experiences with the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross are similar after officials conducted two needs assessments, which determined that most people required food and essential items, or the finances to purchase them.

Kemoy Dean, the acting director of the Red Cross, was spearheading the organisation’s Covid-19 response.

At the beginning of the crisis in March, the humanitarian organization jumped into gear by providing meals and personal protective equipment for the healthcare workers and occupants at governments quarantine facility at the Hawksbill resort and Spa.

Similar donations were also made to the Cancer Treatment Center, the Hanna Thomas hospital in Barbuda, the female block at Her Majesty’s Prison and several nursing homes on the island.

“We saw an increase in the need for food during the heavy lockdown time and even now, food is something that they are still in need of,” Dean stated.

He said the Red Cross has partnered with a local radio station to provide food packages for donation. 

He also spoke of a special project cash transfer programme for hotel workers that was launched weeks ago in association with the Antigua Barbuda Workers Union.

“That programme concludes on Friday. That was pilot programme for us where we had 300 beneficiaries who were able to access funds through a pre-paid debit card,” Dean said.

A similar programme is expected to come onstream in the coming months.

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