PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) will be executing the continuation of the Netherlands Red Cross food assistance programme, which concludes at the end of this month.
The collective food programme of the Netherlands Red Cross, SMDF, K1 Direct, COME Center and Freegan Food Foundation began last year to assist the most vulnerable affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs told Members of Parliament (MPs) during a meeting on Monday that the programme is set to continue and has been budgeted for, but will be financed by the Netherlands. She was responding at the time to questions and concerns from MPs about the ending of the programme.
“The food programme is coming to an end in terms of its execution via the Dutch Red Cross,” she said. “We have had discussions with the Dutch Red Cross and the SMDF, which is executing some of our programmes already. The plan is, in collaboration with VSA [Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor – Ed.] that they will be spearheading that transition.
“I am looking forward to being updated further from the Minister of VSA on that and that further explanation can be given when I have that update. But the plan is indeed for it to be done via SMDF and, of course, no one will fall through the cracks.”
Jacobs said she had received certain questions in terms of assessments of the programme.
“That was one of the things [discussed] when we had our meeting with SMDF and the Dutch Red Cross – to assess whether the persons that were receiving the assistance actually needed the assistance and whether there was an overlap with other instances that were giving assistance.
“We definitely would not want to take over a programme that is taking advantage of the government – whether the Dutch government money or whether it is our money that we are going to borrow from the Dutch government and will have to pay back. At the end of the day, we would like it to be justifiable, that we are assisting those who are in need and not that people are taking advantage of it and doing some of what I hear has been alleged.
“It is a very big task and the government – Ministry of VSA – and the entity of SMDF are moving forward with that.”
She said the ending of the programme was also a concern for the government.
“The Minister of Finance has confirmed that we do have a food assistance programme budgeted for in taking over the Red Cross feeding programme. This will bring a higher cost that the Netherlands has agreed to fund. However, the amount has not yet been determined and I do trust that VSA and SMDF will continue to do their assessments to determine how much that will be in due time.
“So that is being worked on and the more specific details will have to come via the Ministry of VSA and/or Finance.”