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SVG is one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters – Gonsalves

SVG is one of the countries most  vulnerable to natural disasters – Gonsalves

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves told the gathering at the launch of the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) project on Tuesday, that the phrase “natural disaster” could be used interchangeably with “national disaster” when it comes to St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

“.…Because whereas, for example in the United States, if Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, it is a disaster for New Orleans, but life continues in New York and Texas and California; when a disaster hits St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is a national disaster, it affects the entire country and the entire population….

“In St Vincent and the Grenadines, we don’t have those regional variances. Three hundred millimeters of rain is 300 millimeters of rain; it is going to wash homes and roads and lives away, anywhere it falls in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and so a natural disaster is a national disaster.…

Gonsalves, who, as this country’s ambassador to the United Nations and in other capacities, has been an advocate for climate change regulations, said because of this reality, Vincentians, particularly the youth, would have to deal with the consequences of climate change, and should be educated, equipped, and should change the culture in the way disasters resulting from climate change are confronted.

The Minister pointed out that St Vincent and the Grenadines has been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to natural disasters, given the presence of an active volcano, its location on the Caribbean plate earthquake belt, and in the region’s hurricane path, to name a few.

“In the last four years, St Vincent and the Grenadines has experienced annual disasters. We’ve had the Christmas floods, we’ve had the April floods, we’ve had hurricane Tomas, and we’ve had two droughts; each of those disasters has resulted in double digit hits to our GDP annually.

“…But the fact of it is when you get down to the micro level, the stories become far more compelling and far more important. You hear about children who are afraid to go to sleep when the rain falls because the sound of the rain on the roof top reminds them of their friend or family member who was washed away in the Christmas floods.

“You hear about farmers who don’t want to go back to the fields because every time they plant their banana crop, it is washed away or their livestock are washed away. You hear about people who lose faith in the ability of the state to serve them because this road has turned into a river every year over the last five years….”

He said that the PADF project, which is geared to train young Vincentians in strengthening disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation is a welcome initiative. He thanked the PADF and government of Taiwan for their unwavering support, noting that the Asian country’s island nature and its own struggle with natural disasters, has been one of the foundations of its support for St Vincent and the Grenadines in the area of disaster management.(JJ)