Children of Portland Cottage, Jamaica feel the fury of another hurricane
Kingston, Jamaica, 22 August, 2007. Amid the clothes spread out to dry on twisted fallen tree branches, water soaked mattresses and swollen pieces of furniture, the children of Portland Cottage on the southern coast of Jamaica clung to their mothers or peep shyly at the "strangers" going from house to house busily taking notes.
For the older children of this community, this was the second time in three years that they were experiencing the fury of a hurricane. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan ripped through this small fishing community perched on the edge of marshlands leaving a path of death and destruction. At that time, eight community members died including three children who drowned while their parents attempted to take them to safety. Fortunately, this time, there were no deaths as having learned from the last time, some 180 persons including 13 children fled to the primary school on a hill while other families sought refuge with neighbours who had stronger structures on higher ground. However, after the passage of Hurricane Dean on Sunday, August 19, Portland Cottage is once again a devastated community. Flood water marks were clearly visible at around four feet (approx.1 metre) and the mud levels were approximately four inches high. There was hardly a house with its zinc roof intact, broken light poles and electric wires impede passage and residents keep wanting to know when the water trucks would arrive.
Having returned the next day to see what had happened to her house, one mother of six saw only the remains of the red concrete flooring. Her wooden house had been shattered into pieces, furniture and clothes flung in every direction.
"We don't have anything left" the bewildered mother told UNICEF. "I am just trying to dry out some clothes". We need - water, food …" her voice trailed off as she cast an anxious eye at her energetic five year old clambering over the rubble while his older siblings sat quietly. The children were in no mood to talk. For them facing the new school year which was scheduled to begin on September 3 but which has had to be postponed to September 10, must be the furthest things on their minds.
A total of 167 shelters are now open across the island, housing some 3478 shelterees, including 170 children.
UNICEF has procured some four emergency health kits to serve 4,000 children and 1,000 water containers while the regional office is providing another 1,000 water containers
In response to an appeal, the French National Committee for UNICEF has pledged $100,000 while the UK National Committee has pledged £50,000 for emergency relief.