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Disasters and Independence

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There is an old saying which goes like this: “It is an ill wind which blows nobody good,” meaning, even the worst events can have some benefit in the long run.

The validity of this can be borne out by our own experiences during the hurricane season, of which we are in the midst.

Perhaps the best example of this is the spirit of solidarity, particularly towards our neighbours in the region, which is engendered when natural disasters strike, as is the case now. It is really heartening to see the positive responses in terms of tangible donations and willingness to help, which such destruction seems to trigger. But this holds true not just in relation to our external neighbours, for we have also demonstrated generosity and good neighbourliness locally too, when faced with our own disasters.

The onset of the hurricane season, however, demands far more than responses after the occurrence of a disaster. Our level of preparedness, not just to respond, but even more importantly to try to minimize the level of damage and destruction is an essential element.

Thus the clean-up campaign recently carried out by BRAGSA is an important exercise in furthering such objectives. In addition, the exercise provides needed, but all too short, temporary employment, especially for many young mothers, enabling them to better face the challenge of the new school year.

But there seems to be very little connectivity in our communities to the same goal. Those same communities are going to be affected in the event of any disaster, but there is no correlation between the BRAGSA programme and any voluntary clean-up initiatives. We can theorize about possible causes, but it is clear that the community link is missing.

We are six weeks away from our 38th anniversary of Independence, and again, the spirit of national commitment is waning. There is a wide gap between our political independence and community pride and spirit, between our grand pronouncements at a national level and what is taking place (or is indeed absent) at the community level.

Given that our Independence celebrations fall within this very active hurricane season, would it not be a good idea to make some connections between the probability of natural disasters and our responsibilities at the community and home levels? Should there be a bigger role for institutions such as the National Emergency Management Organization and the Community Development Division in influencing the nature of activities for National Independence?

The nation’s heightened awareness about the destructive potential of hurricanes could be used to revive community groups and to ensure that community disaster response mechanisms are in place and ready to be activated, should the need arise.

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