Jamaica: Quarantined residents of Cornpiece crying out for more food

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Jamaica: Quarantined residents of Cornpiece crying out for more food
A tearful Adrian Nembhard bemoans the limited food for his family.
A tearful Adrian Nembhard bemoans the limited food for his family.

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — There was relative calm at quarantined Cornpiece settlement in Hayes, Clarendon, on Friday, day two of lockdown, as the Government mobilises to contain the local spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the island.

This, except for one man, Adrian Nembhard, a resident of the community who complained that the package of food provided by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) was not sufficient for his family of seven.

“One package cyah share fi me and mi pickney dem. If mi have five pickney under my roof yuh cyah give mi four pound a rice. Dem fi leave mi alone mek mi guh get mi own food,” cried a visibly distraught man, who appeared also to be inebriated.

Workers with the MLSS, overhearing the distressed resident, countered by explaining that they had given the family two packages of food in a special gesture considering the number of persons in the household.

One worker, who asked not to be recorded, explained, however, that each family in the quarantined area is to receive one package of food, regardless of the number of persons in a household.

The packages, which are to distributed once per week, contained cornmeal, rice, flour, sugar, a bottle of oil, red kidney beans, sardines, mackerel, corned beef, baked beans, pasta, canned sausages, canned mixed vegetables, powdered food drink, as well as tissue and soap in a separate bag.

Nembhard, however, explained that his wife, who is diabetic, requires a special diet.

“Mi wife diabetic and she have fi get her medication. She cyah eat any and any food weh dem a hand out. She have fi eat certain things. Me a di only breadwinner fi mi family, a my shoulder alone guh to di wheel fi my family and mi nuh feel comfortable,” he said, insisting that he was not comfortable with not being allowed to leave the community.

“Dem say wi fi stay in a di community, but nuh soldier or police nuh supposed to can stop mi from come out. Mi know place where mi can come out and mi nah come out, mi stick to di rule. But mi worried bout mi wife and mi five children dem. My wife and pickney dem a guh inna problem if me cyah provide fi dem,” said the man.

Addressing the issue of the food rationing, PNP councillor and former Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell (Hayes Division) told the Jamaica Observer that consideration must be given to the number of persons in a household and the amount of food they receive.

“With regards to the packaging of the food, I realise that it is one size fits all, that it doesn’t matter how many persons are in the household. I think the ministry needs to look at repackaging the food so that one person in a household wouldn’t get the same amount as a family with four or five persons,” said Barnswell, who also sought clear up allegations that the family members of the first man who died from COVID-19 were not cooperating with the authorities.

“Regarding the family of the gentleman who passed on, I spoke to the son who came down with him and he is in a better frame of mind than previously, and he has asked me to appeal on his behalf for persons to dispel the rumour about him not cooperating with the authorities. So far, he seems to be quite cooperative, so I am asking the wider public to desist from saying that,” he said.

Meanwhile, other residents, some of whom spoke with the Sunday Observer manned their gates, some their verandahs, looking out as security personnel patrolled with health care workers in tow.

Albert Mignott, a 79 year-old blind man who lives next door to the community’s only victim of COVID-19, explained that he was not in the least worried about catching the virus since he had not gone to visit his friend when he returned home on March 12.

“Di gentleman who dead, me and him used to work together and wi move here together, so we know each other from long time. Di last time him come here was 2017, and when him come him always come look fi mi, but mi couldn’t walk and mi blind. It only mi daughter guh over deh.

“But di coronavirus a badda mi very bad. I think when dat man come down as an elderly man and since di coronavirus deh a New York, dem should a catch him at di airport. I don’t tink him should a pass through and dem nuh test him,” said Mignott.

The elderly man also explained that while he did not expect to catch the virus, he was still distressed about the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 and its impact on the world.

“Never in all my 80 years mi ever experience anything like dis. Mi blind about six years now so it won’t do me anything. Mi quarantine already from long time.

“Only when mi guh fi mi check-up because mi have diabetes. Mi have some medication like mi sugar pill, and dem come a while ago and give mi daughter likkle food. But mi never see anything like dis before,” said Mignott.

Patricia Leckford, another elderly resident, shared his sentiments.

“Personally, I have been following what is happening in di news and wi frighten because this never happen before. It affect mi because mi couldn’t sleep last night. But, wi have fi jus’ cope wid it until di two weeks run off.”

“It is not a nice scene to see what is going on in our community. It is affecting everybody in the community, because most of the people cannot go to work or go to market to sell,” said Leckford.

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