Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott, says the region must place high priority on the issue of disaster management.
He noted that the Caribbean region is considered to be the second most disaster prone in the world, and revealed that for Jamaica alone, it is conservatively estimated that for the past 10 years, the country has lost $14 billion annually, dealing with damage caused by impact of hazards, such as hurricane and floods.
The Minister pointed out that this is more than the capital budget of many government departments.
Mr. Arscott, who is the incoming Chair of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Council of Ministers, was speaking at the opening ceremony and cocktail reception for the third meeting of the Council of the CDEMA, at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston, on June 28.
“We have to take a new, more mature look, at the things we must do to safeguard our peoples,” the Minister told the group of policy makers and government officials from CDEMA member states.
He urged the participants to “look with new eyes” as to where they want CDEMA to be in the next five, 10 or 20 years, as they deliberate during the meeting.
The Minister said the country remains committed to supporting the region in post disaster response and management, as well as in a technical capacity. He revealed that two technical officers will be leaving shortly for the Turks and Caicos Islands where they will provide training in damage assessment and needs analysis.
Mr. Arscott noted too, that Jamaica has brought its annual contribution to the agency up to date and urged all participating states to do their best to reduce and eventually eliminate any arrears they may have.
He thanked the outgoing executive director of CDEMA, Mr. Jeremy Collymore, for his contribution to the disaster preparedness effort.
Mr. Collymore, in his remarks, described the CDEMA as a maturing organisation, and noted that there has been significant growth in disaster management in the Caribbean over the past 21 years.
Much of this development, he said, has been driven by the number of disasters that the region has experienced over the years. “We have used the disaster experiences as teachable moments and opportunities to advance policy and practise development,” he added.
According to Mr. Collymore, “the enactment of disaster legislation, adoption of operational policy and procedures and interagency dialogue, are now established ways of doing disaster risk reduction business in the Caribbean."
He explained that at the regional level, there are “ongoing enhancement of the co-ordination architecture and operational capability."
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency replaced the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) as the regional disaster management body. The Council is the policy making body, and it meets annually to review the work of the agency and to make major policy decisions.
One of the key items on the agenda of each meeting is the report from the Management Committee on financial and administrative matters.
By Andrea Braham