WE WISH the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines well as they deal with the explosive eruption of the La Soufriere volcano and its after-effects.
We do so mindful of the fact that at a time when one of our neighbours is in dire distress, this country is not in as good a position as it should be in order to lend a helping hand.
The situation today is far removed from what occurred in 2017, when our Prime Minister was able to open our borders to Dominicans ravaged by a storm.
Though Government has assured we stand ready to do our part to assist, it is embarrassing that we are circumscribed in the range of measures we can deploy, owing to our problems with covid19. Other (smaller, poorer) countries that are further along in their vaccination schemes are better poised to take on evacuees or dispatch personnel.
It is notable that St Vincent and the Grenadines has thus far had a more advanced covid19 inoculation programme, with about ten per cent of its population already covered, according to that country’s prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
Dr Gonsalves on Thursday urged the rest of his citizens to get vaccinated and assured there was enough stock.
“We have been planning for it and we have a good logistics,” he said.
Yet, while St Vincent and the Grenadines has had months of advance notice of this situation, some of the scenes that unfolded on Thursday suggested a degree of haphazardness in the overall response.
Residents from the danger zone were seen waiting at the side of the road for transport, riding in the back of trucks and sitting on the floor aboard vessels ferrying them to safety. Most, but not all, had masks and many flouted physical distancing guidelines.
This suggests there will certainly be room for assistance from agencies such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which was mobilised on Thursday to assist through Caricom, of which this country is current chair.
The current situation and its after-effects could extend for months, if not longer, so there will be ample opportunity for us to get our house in order. Whatever assistance is available will have to be deployed in the long haul.
As made plain by the responses thus far from leadership across the region, it is in Caricom’s interest that St Vincent and the Grenadines weathers this disaster.
It is possible we will be able to safely accommodate vaccinated St Vincentians, though already, as occurred with Dr Rowley’s entreaties in relation to Dominica in 2017, members of the public have begun to make xenophobic comments in this regard.
This is the worst possible time for all of this to happen. Yet we have little choice but to be our brother’s keeper.