JIS News

The system adopted by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), for the distribution of relief supplies is airtight, ensuring that persons severely affected by Hurricane Ivan continue to receive the assistance they need, in an orderly and effective manner.
In an interview with JIS News, Acting Deputy Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson emphasizes that no supplies can be released from the national warehousing facilities without the relevant approval from ODPEM.
“For example, if we get reports from the parish disaster committee that the area of Portland Cottage had 1,000 persons who were without roofing, and required food supplies, blankets, and temporary roof cover, then a packing list is made up here at ODPEM, signed and stamped by the relevant persons. This packing list is sent to the warehouse and that is the only way the goods and items there would be released,” he states.
“They won’t be released unless ODPEM releases it with a release order form, stamped with our seal and signed by us. This is to authenticate that it is an original request. This is taken to the team at Berth 11 and they would then release these items into the hands of a bearer, either from the Parish Council, the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), the churches or to ODPEM, which will also assist with distribution through the use of our trucks,” he adds.
Explaining how the storage and distribution system works, he informs JIS News that relief donations comes into the island from several countries and sources, including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the United States and groups classified as ‘Friends’ of Jamaica. These items are sent to the ports in Kingston, Montego Bay, St. Ann, as well as to the island’s two major airports.
“Those goods are cleared by customs via a standing arrangement with ODPEM. It is recorded and the items transported to Bert 11 at Newport West, where we have the national warehousing facilities,” Mr. Jackson says.
“This is where the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is actually manning the facilities for us, providing security, manpower and some expertise, working in conjunction with the ODPEM staff there,” he points out. Subsequently, the items are logged manually as well as electronically in a computer system, through the use of an application called SUMA (Supplies Management). “It allows us to basically capture everything that is coming in and keep track.
Therefore, whatever comes in, when we send it out, we register the information with the programme and so we are able to reconcile everything at the end of the day,” Mr. Jackson explains.
He notes that ODPEM uses a multi-faceted approach in dispatching supplies to communities by working with established welfare organizations and government agencies, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Jamaica Red Cross, ADRA, and the Salvation Army. ODPEM also collaborates with various church and interest groups, “so that we are able to get into a number of other areas not usually served by the initial group of welfare NGOs,” Mr. Jackson says.
The items are transported using a mixture of resources, including ODPEM, Parish Councils, ADRA, and the Ministry, among others. The Acting Deputy Director General explains that once the supplies get out into the communities, the distribution is conducted by agents of these same organisations.
“They have their teams which assist with the distribution and they then remit a list of the persons who benefited in the communities. So what we do is send out (supplies) to the impacted communities and we ask back for a distribution list, so we will know who got what,” he informs.
Mr. Jackson notes that a significant concern is that in some instances, these reports are not always promptly submitted. However, verification is usually conducted through networking with the Parish Disaster Committees and ODPEM’s own regional co-ordinators. “If we send out supplies to an area, we try to get a feel of what is going on in the area,” he says.
He explains that ODPEM is focusing on getting assistance to the areas that are being served, to a lesser extent, by government agencies and NGOs. “For example, Portland Cottage in Clarendon is saturated with help, so is Brighton in Westmoreland, but there is little going on in South Manchester and South St. Elizabeth, so we would then try to focus a lot of the attention on these other areas, once we have done the initial work in Portland Cottage and Brighton. We try to stay away from duplication,” he says.
“What we do is once we get the temporary roofing supplies out and the initial feeding programme and comfort items.then we stop and focus on those communities where persons did not receive any form of roof cover while they wait on the rehabilitation grants from the Ministry,” he says, noting that food supplies are provided in the medium to long term for areas such as the fishing and farming communities, which had lost their sources of income.
Mr. Jackson tells JIS News that emergency relief distribution is expected to continue for an extra week as ODPEM is phasing out that component and moving on to rehabilitation, as the Ministry moves to assist affected persons.

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