The Netherlands donates another 14.1 million for food aid to Dutch Caribbean countries

THE HAGUE - The Dutch government is donating an additional amount of 14.1 million euros for the food aid programs in Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. This brings the total since the start of the corona crisis to 85.4 million euros. The countries should be able to cope with the new contribution until September 30, Undersecretary Raymond Knops of Kingdom Relations wrote to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament today:

“The residents of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have been facing major challenges since COVID-19 and the resulting loss of tourism. The poverty problem on the islands has increased significantly due to COVID-19. For this reason, the Netherlands has made financial resources available for food aid since May 2020. Those hardest hit by the crisis can be helped with their greatest needs.

By means of this letter, I report on the situation regarding the transition of the program, in accordance with the commitment from the letter to Parliament Continuation of the food aid program Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten dated 12 March 2021 and I will inform you about the continuation of the food aid program.”

Situation transition food aid program

The Red Cross started the food aid program in the countries on behalf of the Netherlands more than a year ago. The implementation of the program by the Red Cross was focused on emergency aid and could not continue in the same way in the long term. For this reason, agreements have been made with the countries about the transition of the program to local authorities. The local authorities have since taken over the program. Care for the most vulnerable will be continued, with the countries themselves being responsible for implementation and the Netherlands making financial resources available.

Agreements have been made with Curaçao about the transition of the program. Curaçao has taken over the food aid for residents on 1 May. Because the preparations for this took longer than expected, the Red Cross also provided food aid in May. The Ministry of Social Development, Labor and Welfare (SOAW) has taken over the implementation of the program. At the beginning of June, SOAW delivered the first issuance of food aid. For the food aid program, Curaçao receives a subsidy of € 2.4 million from the Netherlands, which provides for the period until August 1, 2021. This will be financed with the funds made available by the Netherlands in March 2021.

The Netherlands will continue to provide food aid for undocumented migrants in Curaçao until August 1, 2021. SOAW will take over this responsibility after 1 August. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is carrying out this program on behalf of the Netherlands. IOM will receive € 3.0 million for this, also part of the funds made available earlier. The Red Cross also provided food aid for this group in May. The takeover of the program by IOM has taken longer than expected, causing a short interruption in the food aid distribution. Registration and issuance have already started.

In accordance with the agreement, the Red Cross has transferred its tasks on Sint Maarten to the local government on 1 May. As with Curaçao, agreements have been made with Sint Maarten about the transition and these have been formalized in an agreement. Due to the lack of an accord with Sint Maarten on the agreement and the financial application, the program could not be started. I regret the delay that has arisen and have urged Sint Maarten to resume the program as soon as possible. This has now been provided for and registration for the program has been opened. On behalf of Sint Maarten, SMDF takes on the coordinating role in the implementation. They work together with other NGOs for the implementation of the program. The first issue will take place shortly.

The Netherlands supports Sint Maarten financially with this program by means of a subsidy of € 2.5 million. The subsidy covers the period until August 1, 2021 and is also part of the funds made available earlier.

In Aruba, the Red Cross carried out the food aid program on behalf of the Netherlands until 1 July. Aruba has taken over the food aid program on July 1, 2021. Efforts are underway to formalize the accords in an agreement. The takeover is progressing well. The local government of Aruba has found Fundacion Pa Nos Comunidad (FPNC) willing to implement the food aid program.

The subsidies to the Red Cross for food aid in Aruba have been provided for the period up to 1 July. The resources that the Dutch cabinet made available in March are sufficient to be able to implement the food aid program in Aruba until August 1. This will be provided to Aruba through a subsidy if agreement is reached on the transition.

Follow up food aid program

Although tourism seems to be picking up again, the need for food aid is still there. For this reason, the Dutch cabinet has decided to make € 14.1 million available for the fifth phase of the food aid program for Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. With these funds, the program can be implemented until September 30, 2021.

Since the start of the program in May 2020, the Dutch cabinet has made €85.4 million available for food aid. In September 2021, the cabinet will decide whether continuation of the program after 1 October 2021 is necessary and how the countries can be supported in that case.

With the recovery of tourism and the economy in sight, I expect the number of people who rely on food aid to decrease. At the same time, we are working with the countries to sustainably strengthen the economy, with a focus on social security and a social safety net, so that programs like these will no longer be necessary in the future.

Knops says that he will continue to monitor the development of the needs of the most vulnerable in the countries and he hopes for a speedy recovery of the economies of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

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