Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Churches urge Belizeans to have faith as forest fires cause widespread devastation

Published:Wednesday | June 5, 2024 | 9:53 AM
Wild fires threatening Belize’s eco-system. - CMC photo

BELMOPAN, Belize, CMC – Belizeans are being urged to remain “steadfast” in their belief in God as the CARICOM country continues to deal with a series of forest fires that have devastated several parts of the country, particularly the Toledo and Cayo districts.

In Toledo, large tracts of agricultural land have been destroyed, while national parks and even communities have been affected in Cayo.

Volunteers and officials from government and non-governmental agencies have been collectively battling the flames that displaced wildlife, destroyed habitats, and threaten the livelihood of thousands in the tourism industry in western Belize.

The Belize Council of Churches (BCC) in a statement said it is continuing to offer “its prayers of solace to the victims of the fires in Cayo and Toledo” and that it is also offering prayers “of gratitude for the dedicated many who have fought, and continue to fight the fires.

“The Council of Churches has initially sent cases of life-giving water to Toledo with enclosed prayers for the firefighters, as they spend day and night not only in the heat of this dry weather but also the heat of the fire.

“Rest assured that God remains  steadfast during this time and throughout the immediate and the coming months of recovery and restoration”.

On Tuesday, speaking at the annual hurricane season news conference, the executive director of the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)  Elizabeth Riley, made reference to the situation in Belize, telling reporters the country is facing a problem with wild and forest fires caused by the extensive heatwaves that have been going on since May 16.

A statement issued following the last Cabinet meeting, said that the government was briefed on the ongoing fires that have affected multiple communities across the nation and approved funds for the National Emergency Management Organization for operational support. 

It said that the Cabinet had appointed an inter-ministerial working group to address the needs of affected communities.

But Opposition Leader, Moses “Shyne” Barrow says  farmers in Toledo district are desperately in need of assistance.

He told a news conference that he spent the weekend down south where he met with numerous farmers who are facing financial constraints after wildfires destroyed their crops.

Last Thursday, Prime Minister John Briceño announced that an initial one million Belize dollars in aid will be made available to those families that are affected. But Barrow said that much needed relief has been slow in coming.

“I met with several small farmers and they have reported tens of thousands of dollars in losses in their cacao and corn and this impacts them tremendously, can't pay school fees, can't put food on the table, can't deal with medical expenses. One farmer his wife severely ill, the other farmer his daughter now cant pay to get her diploma.

“These things have real time ramifications. The government have to do better in having an emergency response policy. The prime minister has said there is a contingency fund so that money needs to be disbursed,” Barrow said.

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