A team from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) yesterday (Jan. 23) wrapped up three days of meetings with key disaster management agencies to assess the country's disaster management programme and determine the level of technical assistance that can be offered by the Japanese government.
The team of experts, which began their work with meetings with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), was led by Hidetomi Oi, a senior disaster management specialist in Japan.
He was accompanied by Gen Yoneda, Assistant Director for Development and Planning in the Latin America and Caribbean Department at JICA headquarters in Tokyo; and Nami Sasaki of the Co-operation Planning Division.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, told JIS News that the team was in the island at Jamaica's request.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh (R) is greeted by Japan's Ambassador to Jamaica, Hiroshi Yamaguchi (L) on arrival at the 20th anniversary celebration of the dispatch of Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV) to Jamaica, held recently at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
"We can all appreciate how timely this mission is in the face of the current (earthquake) disaster in Haiti and given the vulnerability of our region to natural disasters," he said.
He noted that disasters are having a serious impact on Jamaica's economy and country must be in a constant state of preparedness. "Any technical help we can get to improve efficiency, to be responsive to disasters and mitigate the effects of disasters, is most welcomed and we're very grateful that the Japanese have sent a team to respond to our needs," he added.
Resident representative of JICA, Toshimasa Takashima, explained that the visit was primarily a "contact mission".
"After the discussions, we have another step, but for now it's a contact mission to decide how we can formulate a project in Jamaica," he told JIS News.
The team also met with the Environment Management Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister and visited the University of the West Indies (UWI), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), National Water Commission (NWC), and National Works Agency (NWA).
Dr. Baugh had high praises for the work that the Japanese government is carrying out in Jamaica, describing their efforts as "transformational" and "helping Jamaica in a significant way".
Another JICA mission is in the island to evaluate the progress of the ongoing Kingston Metropolitan Area Water Supply Project and the New Kingston Sewerage Development Project.