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Local communities boosting disaster resilience skills

Local communities boosting disaster resilience skills
MINISTER WITH responsibility for National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson

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THE GOVERNMENT OF St Vincent & the Grenadines has budgeted EC$99 million for sea and river defense and related works this financial year, which it believes will offer the island protection from flooding and other climate hazards, a release from the Ministry for National Mobilisation states.

This was announced by Minister with responsibility for National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson, at the launch of a week-long workshop organised by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund of the Caribbean Development Bank, for community development practitioners across the Ministry and its agencies on Monday, February 10.

In addition to the capital expenditure works – slated to stretch from Sandy Bay to Sans Souci on the Windward side of the island some EC$30 million have been set aside to respond to natural disaster shocks.

“Though all of these monies are in the capital estimates in the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Mobilisation, when the work is started, we have to be involved because they’re the river defense and sea defense works… and you have an important role to play in those areas because you have to go first of all into the communities and get the community involvement to buy into these projects,” Stephenson in reference to staff at the National Emergency Management Organisation-NEMO.

The Minister said the both the capital expenditure projects and the disaster fund were critical buffering the island in light of globally accepted science that climate change is likely to wreak havoc across the Caribbean in coming years, as well as the presence of the La Soufriere volcano.

He reminded of the dislocation caused when the volcano last erupted in 1979 as well as the impact of floods in 2013 and 2016.

It was in the wake of the 2016 floods that government introduced a one per cent tax on phone calls to create an emergency response fund.

“That contingency fund, which the government would have at hand to use as a first response to a natural disaster, has accumulated the sum of $30.5 million. This would be able to assist the government [to respond] swiftly… until we get the funding from whether the CDB or the World Bank, or wherever,” the Minister said.

The Minister’s comments at the workshop were aligned with the theme: The workshop, which wraps up today and has as its theme: Improving Inclusive Disaster Risk Management through Strengthened Community- based Organisations is being executed by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF).

It is similar to one previously held in St Ann’s, Jamaica, and has targeted practitioners using a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach as well as community members themselves.

The CDRRF secretariat said, the training is in response to gaps identified across the region in the way community-based organisations operate. The primary objectives are: to strengthen the operational capacity of the targeted community groups to enable them to apply for grants; to encourage inclusive approaches to planning and implementation of activities; and to increase the organisations’ knowledge of, and actions towards improving community resilience.

The CDRRF was established by the Caribbean Development Bank and is financed by the government of Canada and the European Union. It is partnering with Jamaica’s Social Development Commission, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, the Seismic Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, and CCRIF (formerly Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility) in the week-long workshop.

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