If there is one positive thing that could come out of the natural disasters that affected our neighbouring islands last year, it is the fact that it provided an opportunity for these affected member states to rebuild more resilient structures that met with appropriate building codes.
This is according to the Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, who delivered remarks at a church service to commemorate that organisation’s 27th anniversary yesterday at the Harvest Bible Church, Goodland, St. Michael.
He said that CDEMA’s response mechanisms were put to the test as Hurricanes Irma and Maria created an onslaught of damage in Dominica, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands and had a total death toll of fewer than 50 people.
“While the death toll was low compared to other jurisdictions, it was still too high if we hold the view that one death is one too many.
“Recovery efforts in these countries are still ongoing and this with the support of our numerous committed corporate, diaspora, development partners from the Caribbean and around the world. We ourselves are proud of the fact that with their support we have been able to advance recovery projects in all of the islands supporting housing rehabilitation, school repairs, health facility repairs and short-term sustenance for the displaced,” he stated.
Nevertheless, these disasters have ensured that these nations can focus their rebuilding efforts on adhering to proper building standards and it has also made them more conscious of the need to place greater efforts in preparedness, he said.
“These events though challenging have provided some opportunities for improvement as we move forward. The rebuilding efforts have provided an opportunity for building back better in the affected countries, inclusive of using better building techniques to improve hazard resistance and ensuring adherence of building codes. These events have also fostered a greater awareness around the region about the possible impacts of natural hazards and the need for a higher level of preparedness amongst our communities. As a result, we are seeing a greater acceptance of the need for integration of disaster risk reduction considerations in all aspects of development planning.
“Further, this last year’s events have provided validation of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Framework promoted by CDEMA as the most appropriate vehicle for driving the strengthening of resilience in the region to disasters and climate change.”