Philipsburg, June 18, 2020 -Gracita Arrindell said: “a picture tells a thousand words, however, it does not always provide the whole story or the real message behind what the lens captures. Many of our citizens continue to suffer significant hardship after hurricane Irma. Some quietly behind closed doors because they are too proud to show that they need help, albeit temporarily.
Covid-19 lockdown no doubt contributed to this suffering as it seriously increased the unemployment rate of St. Maarten”.
“This situation seriously affected the purchasing ‘power’ of our citizens.
Increasingly, photos are shown on social media platforms of several private organizations, or groups of citizens, politicians, showing how many food packages they distributed to those who need it most. Tens of thousands of food -items none perishable and perishable goods alike have been provided to people in different neighborhoods”.
Arrindell states, “Regrettably, there are persons who need assistance, but who do not receive any. These citizens fall through the cracks of the support – supply chains. The question is why? How can we ensure that everyone who needs and deserves assistance is counted? Is it true that some neighborhoods have become a ‘platform for pity’?We must be wary of ‘wolves in sheep clothing’. On one hand, we are making all efforts to encourage and welcome back tourists to our beautiful shores. On the other hand concurrently, many of these tourists read what is happening on St. Maarten”.
“Constant stream of news heralding the amount of aid provided compared to the amount of people recorded in our government departments (unofficial estimates over 10.000 applicants) in charge of the aid distribution needs further stream-lining. The reported recent initiative taken by some organizations to assist 3200 households is the first step.
“Food boxes are delivered, but the real problem remains. It’s increased poverty.
The government must meet all organizations, not just a few, to assess the current situation by cross-checking their lists with the information that exists and is updated by the government departments that are in charge of food and aid distribution.
The policy distribution of relief packages must be fair and accurate, and not misleading”.
Perhaps it is worthwhile to look at what Curacao, apparently faced with a similar situation whereby many organizations provided relief while many citizens did not receive or received few supplies. This country’s government announced and ordered all none governmental organizations or individuals who wanted to provide aid to the most vulnerable to channel their relief support actions through a main distribution center, Red-cross or ‘food bank’.
Arrindell continues, “most people encounter a downturn at some point in their lives. Even citizens who worked hard paid their taxes, saved for a ‘rainy day’ face hard times often of no fault of their own. Our citizens prefer to have a decent job to feed their families with dignity. Their unfortunate situation should never be used as a prop for self- fulfillment.
“Job creation will lift people who can and those who want to work out of this cycle of ‘poverty- handouts. In the meantime, everyone in need deserves to be counted and assisted”, concludes Gracita”.