Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in special emergency session on Saturday to receive an update on the effects of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Jose on the region and progress on the coordinated response to provide relief for those affected.
The meeting, presided over by CARICOM Chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, received a full briefing on the situation from representatives of the affected countries, the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA), the Community’s lead agency for disaster response, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and regional institutions.
The Executive Director of CDEMA Ronald Jackson addressed the situation in Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla as well as giving an update on the Community’s coordinated response to all the countries affected.
Immediate needs were identified for those worst affected, particularly, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Anguilla. These included water, food items, materials to aid in providing temporary shelter such as plywood and tarpaulins and especially cash to purchase items to help with the cost of immediate recovery efforts in the affected countries.
Premier of the BVI Dr Orlando Smith; the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis; Haiti’s Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigues; and a representative of the Turks and Caicos Government provided the latest information on their countries.
Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerritt provided information on the situation on the island of St Maarten where a significant number of CARICOM nationals are currently located and Prime Minister of St Lucia, Allen Chastenet alerted the meeting to the situation in St Kitts and Nevis.
Last week, CDEMA activated the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) which coordinates relief action and includes regional institutions, international agencies, and representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. CDEMA’s advance team has been waiting in Antigua to go into the affected countries and is set to leave for Anguilla today.
Hurricane Irma caused massive damage to property and infrastructure including sea and air ports which has hindered access to the islands, affecting the arrival of assessment teams and the relief efforts. Limited access has been established to Anguilla and BVI with the aid of the United Kingdom. A team is also in Jamaica awaiting to proceed to the Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas and Haiti.
Heads of Government expressed concern about the long term psychological effects of the situation given the serious dislocation and sense of loss of the populations of the affected countries. They also stressed that these disasters emphasised the economic vulnerability of the Region given the cost of recovery and the impact on economic activity of the affected countries.
They mandated the CARICOM Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to continue working with CDEMA to coordinate recovery efforts.