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CARICOM Secretary General praises SVG for swift Tomas move

CARICOM Secretary General praises SVG for swift Tomas move

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines came in for high praise from regional officials for this country’s prompt response following the passage of Hurricane Tomas.{{more}}

The recognition came from CARICOM Secretary General Sir Edwin Carrington, as well as from the head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Jeremy Collymore, at a press conference held at Cabinet Room on Monday, November 22.

The men were here to give an update on relief efforts that were being rendered to this country after the October 30 hurricane.

Sir Edwin, who met with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves prior to the press conference, said that it was his understanding that there was not much initial reliance on the region just after the hurricane hit.

“The capacity was essentially home grown; whether it be housing or farmers and agriculture, schools and education or roads,” said Sir Edwin.

“That to me is a measure of preparedness, a measure of resources and a measure of the people’s response,” he noted.

The Secretary General said that it was important to understand the nature of disaster, which he claimed is part of the region’s nature.

He added that it was also important that the way disasters are treated in the region is mainstreamed.

“It is not something that may come; it is something that will come. It is part of our condition. We must ensure that we are in a position to deal with it every time on a private and public sector level and a home level,” said Sir Edwin.

Collymore, who also praised the national response following the category one hurricane, acknowledged that it had caused significant dislocation, especially to the agricultural and rural communities.

He indicated that so far about $500, 000 have been mobilized through his agency in support of the relief efforts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines: most of which will be facilitated through the agency’s offices and through the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).

“Among those supporting those efforts are the governments of Australia, Brazil… Venezuela… Japan… the Caribbean Development Bank… the CARICOM Development Fund… the UN Office for Coordinated Humanitarian Affairs… UNDP… UNICEF…,” said Collymore.

“These are all part of the response mechanism that was triggered. I am sure there will be others that will be in the pipeline,” said Collymore.

He said that among other areas, the funding will be used for addressing humanitarian needs, farming and agriculture, relief supplies material, and assessment of the socio-economic impact of the hurricane.

Collymore further noted there was no need for CDEMA to activate the regional response mechanism beyond level two, since the impact in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was such that the government was able to meet all the critical leadership requirements for getting supplies and material and services back up, and was able to do so within 10 days after the event.

Meanwhile, Director of NEMO, Michelle Forbes, indicated that at the time of the press conference, there were just over 100 of the 1,194 persons that are still housed in shelters; mostly community centers.

She noted that within the 10 days after the passage of Hurricane Tomas, most of the institutions which were used as emergency shelters were reopened within a short time frame, and that the priority immediately following the hurricane was the provision of food and shelter.

“Food aid is a priority right now for NEMO,” said Forbes.

“That food aid is continuing, and we are currently feeding 1,500 persons a day, and this is expected to continue until December, as many of these families affected have been displaced because of losing all of their food in their homes, and also the impact on the agricultural sector where there has been a loss of income,” she added.

Forbes noted that there will be an assessment by NEMO on the lessons learnt from Tomas and what needs to be done better the next time around.