Text: Constânça de Pina
Photos: Nicolau Centeio
The first to respond to the call sounded by Cape Verdean authorities was the International Red Cross Committee. On December 12, 19 days after the beginning of the eruption, the institution gave some 5,500,000 escudos in cash to its Cape Verdean branch. The Luxembourg National Red Cross Corporation sent 20,000 euros, which was invested in the management of the shelter centers and civil protection equipment. The Red Cross of Cape Verde also says it has received some 16 million escudos in the three accounts it has in Cape Verdean banks.
This sum also includes funds donated by Cape Verdeans. Most of the legislators in the National Assembly agreed to donate one day of their earnings to the Red Cross, which resulted in a total of 380,000 escudos. Municipal governments, businesses and individual citizens also expressed their solidarity with those affected by the natural disaster, making monetary and other donations. The Praia municipal chamber has sent the revenues from a benefit concert held to the Red Cross as well.
The municipality of Santa Catarina de Santiago has sent approximately a metric ton of food items, hygiene products and clothing, in addition to a check for 40,000 escudos, the result of its own solidarity campaign.
Business sector present as well
Fuel company Enacol handed the Cape Verdean Red Cross a check for 1,764,000 escudos, a result of its “Fill-Up Solidarity” campaign, held at gas stations throughout the country during the month of January. Enacol itself added one thousand liters of fuel to the amount. The fuel was made available at the beginning of the eruption to help transport people to and from Chã das Caldeiras. Fuel company Vivo Energy made two donations of 1,000 liters of diesel fuel to assist in the evacuation of residents, and guaranteed the transportation of more than a metric ton of foodstuffs.
Commercial bank Banco Cabo-Verdiano de Negócios (BCN) donated 1,800,000 escudos to the victims of the disaster. The funds were handed to the president of the Red Cross on February 7, the day the bank celebrated its 10th anniversary. 1,300,000 escudos of this total consisted of client donations, while the remaining 500,000 escudos was a donation from the BCN itself. Individually, workers at companies such as Enapor, ASA and Cabnave held solidarity campaigns, with the total funds raised by Enapor standing at 371,000 escudos and ASA at 1,232,000 escudos.
Red Cross of Cape Verde president Mário Moreira explains that the institution has so far gathered 30,000 metric tons of food products. The donations came from municipal governments in Cape Verde and Portuguese municipalities, such as the city of Cascais, which donated a shipping container full of food products. Firefighters in the Southern Portuguese city of Faro also organized a humanitarian campaign in partnership with the UCCLA. The corporation created a list of goods of first necessity – radios, generators, inflatable tents, water tanks, portable restrooms, cots, blankets, sheets, first aid kits, masks, protection goggles, compresses, towels, adhesive strips and many other materials.
Mário Moreira also highlights the generous donations sent by Cape Verdean communities abroad, especially from the state of New Jersey, in the United States. “The money sent from New Jersey, some 240,000 escudos, came with instructions for 900 dollars to be given to the local parish church. The other two 900 dollar fractions went to the Monte Grande and Achada Furna shelters,” he explains. Despite this, the president of the Red Cross of Cape Verde calls on individuals and institutions to continue to help, because the products in stock for the basic food baskets are enough for just one month. FIFA is also willing to build a sports complex for the new community to be constructed on the island of Fogo, a project that will be channeled through the Cape Verdean Soccer Federation. Portuguese soccer outfit Benfica has also promised to build a school in the new village.
Plumper still is the bank account the government ordered opened in the state Treasury to take in donations. The account received 500,000 dollars from the People’s Republic of China and 300,000 dollars from the ECOWAS. Spain donated 25,000 euros to Cape Verde, trough the International Red Cross Federation’s Emergency Reserves Fund. The United States of America sent a check for 300,000 dollars, while Guinea Bissau sent 50,000 dollars and the West Africa Institute 100 million escudos. São Tomé and Príncipe sent 65,000 euros to Cape Verde – 50,000 from the government and the remaining portion from São Tomean businesses and individuals.
The European Union donated 3 million euros, while Cape Verdean émigrés, non-governmental organizations and private sector businesses in the Netherlands sent some 1,411,000 escudos. The Cape Verdean diaspora in the United States, alongside NGOs and the private sector, managed to mobilize between 24,000 and 30,000 dollars, which were sent to the Association of Municipalities of Fogo.
In some cases, however, assistance and aid has remained in the realm of promises. This is the case of the financial aid promised by the African Development Bank to the tune of US$ 1 million, which has yet to be made available. The US$ 500,000 promised by East Timor and the US$ 100,000 promised by the African Union have yet to arrive as well.
The Angola-Cape Verde Friendship Association is still carrying out a fund-raising campaign promoted by Cape Verdeans living in that country, as well as NGOs and the private sector, with the support of Cape Verde’s diplomatic representation in Luanda. Quicker to act were Cape Verdean citizens and organizations in Spain, which in the first days of the eruption sent the Red Cross 16,000 high-filter disposable masks, food items, clothing, toys, school supplies and financial aid.
A campaign promoted by Cape Verdean émigrés and by the Hamburg Association is also under way in Germany. Cape Verdeans living in Portugal sent frozen fish and milk – a donation by the company Luís Silvério – while Cape Verdeans residing in Italy sent clothing, blankets, school supplies, children’s footwear, toys, non-perishable food items, mattresses and household utensils. The Cape Verdean Embassy in Rome is also coordinating a fund-raising campaign.
The chairman of the Crisis Office, Antero Matos, says that the last survey carried out by the entity shows that nearly a million US dollars (96,100,000 escudos) have been deposited in the account opened in the State Treasury. The office is, however, also waiting for the first installment of the 0.5% added to the country’s Value Added Tax to assist in the reconstruction of Chã das Caldeiras – the funds are expected to be channeled to the Office at the end of February or in the first days of March. According to Matos, the Ministry of Finances predicts that in one year, the added 0.5% on the VAT will contribute some 350 million escudos to the account. The Crisis Office, however, expresses a more cautious estimate of between 200 and 250 million escudos.
The government expects to spend some 20 million dollars on the construction, over the course of 18 months, of a new village for the inhabitants of Chã das Caldeiras left homeless by the eruption. This figure, however, does not include the financing of large-scale infrastructures.
Control of food and cleaning products, household utensils and other items is carried out by the National Civil Protection Service in close coordination with the municipal governments of the island of Fogo and the Red Cross. A computer program registers everything that enters and leaves the warehouse. The management team also has technical advisory in the area of nutrition in order to put together the basic food baskets, depending on the make up of the family unit and the number of children or elderly individuals in the family.
The chairman of the Crisis Office confessed that the aid provided in terms of foodstuffs is not enough to cover families’ needs, and that their diet si being complemented with food acquired on the local market, such as fish, meat and vegetables with funds from the State Budget – a policy aimed at respecting the parameters of the World Food Program, which stipulates that an individual’s food for one month should cost approximately 60 dollars.” But expenditures with those displaced by the eruption far exceed this amount, and Matos emphasizes that the number of people affected has reached 1,076 individuals.
Despite the care being taken, the Crisis Office is not immune to criticism. Some have spoken of embezzlement – such as in the case of nine television sets that had been placed in the shelters, as well as two generators. Bur Antero Matos explains that, with the de-activation of the centers, the television sets were collected by municipal governments. As far as the generators are concerned, the Crisis Office chairman guarantees that only eight were received – four by air, and four by sea.
“The Customs declaration from Fogo sea port mentions the entry of four generators by sea. But because someone said they saw six generators on the dock, we decided to check, and, as such, the National Civil Protection Service reported the case to the police,” explains Matos, lamenting the non-existence of cargo documents on the aircrafts and ships that brought aid from Angola.
Most of the families who were being housed at the Achada Furna and Monte Grande shelters have been transferred to the houses built following the 1995 eruption, according to Antero Matos. The rest have been lodged in homes rented by the state – in other words, the rent is being paid by funds allocated on the State Budget to the Ministry of the Environment and Housing and the Ministry of Youth, Employment and the Development of Human Resources, which also responds for the area of solidarity.
“There remain just four families in Achada Furna living in tents because there are no houses available in the vicinity, and they resist living away from the other members of the community. But we’re continuing to look for solutions to provide dignified housing to these families,” says Antero Matos. Opposition party MpD’s proposal for the government to make homes built within the scope of the Casa Para Todos housing project available has not been fulfilled because “there was no need to resort to this solution, which would have been extreme,” said the chairman of the Crisis Office.
Matos also affirms the typology of the houses in question is not the most adequate possible. In addition, “the houses built in 1995 are going to be expanded to three bedrooms, depending on the size of the family unit. They will also be provided with proper bathrooms and kitchens. The companies that will carry out this work already have the terms of reference. Unfortunately, the resources to pay for this work, promised by the World Bank, have yet to hit the Treasury. But the government has instructed the Crisis Office to go ahead with the enterprise,” he concludes.
Forum to design new settlement and axes of development
The government, municipalities from Fogo, national and local elected officials, NGOs, representatives form the United Nations system and civil society will meet this Monday and Tuesday, March 2 and 3, for the Forum for the Reconstruction of Fogo. The conference, which will take place in the Employment and Professional Training Center in São Filipe and be directed by Prime Minister José Maria Neves, will set out the directives for the recovery of the zones affected by the eruption, in addition to defining the axes of the economic development of Chã das Caldeiras. A highlight in the agenda of discussions is a new settlement for the people of Chã das Caldeiras.
With the meeting, the government hopes to point the way toward incrementing the economic and agricultural sector in the island’s high-altitude zones, as well as discussing tourism and handicrafts. The Executive also hopes to identify the ways to enhance basic social services such as health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation. “We’re going to try to reach consensus regarding the way to use the inside of the crater and contribute toward building capacities in risk prevention and disaster recovery,” says Antero Matos.
Debates will be divided into three panels. The first, “Risk Prevention and Catastrophe Response,” will be used to discuss the Risk Mapping of the island of Fogo and Risk Prevention, Response and Effect Recovery Capacities. The second panel, “Satisfying the Basic Needs of the Affected Population,” will focus on the areas of health, nutrition, education, electricity, water and sanitation. The third, “Intervention in the Economic Sector for the Recuperation of Fogo,” is aimed at detailing the strategy for the conversion of the farming and non-agricultural productive fabric. The new settlement will, of course, also be an inevitable theme.