Last week I reported to this Honourable House the damage sustained due to the passage of Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday, 24thof October.
Since then Hurricane Sandy moved northwards and developed into a 'Superstorm' which also devastated areas on the North Eastern seaboard of the United States of America and parts of Canada. Parts of the Tri-State area, in the USA, were severely affected. We continue to pray for their recovery, including members of the Jamaican Diaspora
Mr. Speaker, we were well prepared for Hurricane Sandy and thankfully, God spared us from what could have been more extensive damage across greater areas of the country.
As I indicated last week, assessments were being conducted. Today I can update this Honourable House on the activities within various sectors and the Government of Jamaica’s response to families and households who have suffered loss and dislocation.
I begin with our response to the families in the worst affected parishes.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has advised that, based on preliminary estimates, over 4,000 homes have been damaged by the passage of Hurricane Sandy.
Of this number approximately 365 homes were totally devastated, some 2,797 homes were severely damaged and a further 2,271 had minor damage.
The most severe damage was concentrated in the parishes of St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary.
The Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing has been working closely with the relevant government agencies, as well as with the political representatives in each parish, in order to get a more precise assessment of the damage to housing.
Although the surveys are not completely finalized, a plan of action has been developed.
The special JEEP housing project, which represents collaboration between the Government and the Food For The Poor, has been adjusted to focus, at this point on those persons who have lost their dwellings as a result of the passage of Sandy.
Before any unit is constructed, both government officials and the Food For The Poor will have to be satisfied that the beneficiary has legal access to the plot of land on which the unit will be constructed.
Specific attention will be paid by the Ministry of Housing to ensure that proper building standards are observed and to ensure the suitability of the locations where these units will be placed.
The Government’s commitment,under JEEP, to provide approximately 20 Food For the Poor units to beneficiaries in each constituency will be kept.
We have simply adjusted the programme, in light of the damage caused by the hurricane.
Assistance vouchers valued at $60,000 will be provided to affected persons whose houses were severely damaged and vouchers valued at $30,000 will be provided to affected persons whose houses had minor damage.
I now turn to our farmers.
Our agricultural sector has been hit hard. Many farmers suffered damage to cash crops including banana, plantain, root and tubers, vegetables, condiments and fruits.
This damage totals approximately $1.43 Billion dollars, just under the $1.5 Billion dollar preliminary estimate I spoke to last week.
According to reports received:
· The passage of the hurricane affected some 37,000 farmers.
· 3,600 farmers reported damage to livestock totalling $95 Million dollars.
· We have lost approximately 20% of the unreaped Blue Mountain coffee berries estimated at 31,600 boxes with a value of $101 Million dollars. 12% of the remaining crop of our High Mountain Coffee has also been lost, an estimated 4,522 boxes valued at $9 Million.
· Our aquaculture industry sustained damage estimated to the tune of $91M.
· Our irrigation infrastructure was also significantly impacted at a cost of $62M.
· The crop loss sustained by the cocoa industry was previously reported as 21,500 boxes but the most recent assessment reports damage of 24,500 boxes.
To assist with the resuscitation of the banana industry, the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has negotiated a $100M loan package from the People’s Cooperative Banks which will be available to farmers at an interest rate of 5%.
Additionally, the People's Cooperative Banks have agreed to reduce their one-off fees on loans from 3% to 1.5% to assist the industry at this time. I pause to commend them.
The Government recognises that some of the smaller banana farmers may not be able to access these loan funds. The Ministry has negotiated with the European Union to allocate $13M from the EU Banana Support Programme to assist small farmers with fertilizer and insecticide.
Some 3,888 bags of fertilizer and 39 kg of insecticide will be distributed in the worst affected areas this week.
Banana farmers who suffered losses above 50% of production and who are subscribers to the Catastrophe Fund will be receiving their pay-out shortly.
In order to assist with the restoration of cash crop production in the worse affected parishes, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, through RADA, will provide the following materials and services to farmers:
· Vegetable seeds valued at $13.2 Million dollars for 6,000 farmers;
· 18,666 bags of fertilizer valued at $30.3 Million dollars;
· Day old chicks and animal feed valued at $4 Million dollars to 400 farmers; and
· Tractor services by RADA to assist 750 farmers with land preparation.
Tools for pruning will be provided to affected cocoa farmers including chain saws, guide bars, cutlass files and cutlasses valued at $500,000.
Cocoa farmers will also receive some 9,006 bags of fertiliser valued at $14.5 Million dollars.
Over 22,222 bags of fertilizer of different blends valued at $40M will be distributed to affected coffee farmers.
$20 Million dollars in grants will be made available for the provision of critical equipment to both our marine fishers and affected persons in the aquaculture industry.
We are doing all that we can to restore our agricultural sector to full production as soon as possible, utilising available resources.
Repairs to the irrigation system are being made through the re-allocation of budgetary resources in the National Irrigation Commission’s budget.
I now move to Health.
Twenty-four of the twenty-five hospitals have resumed offering normal services. The Annotto Bay Hospital continues to offer emergency and in-patient services only due to the roof damage at that facility.
All Health Centres with the exception of the Chepstowe Health Centre near Swift River have resumed operations. The building which houses the Chepstowe Health Centre lost its roof during the hurricane.
The National Health Fund will advance a total of $160 Million dollars to address repairs to damaged health facilities.
The Ministry of Health is also well underway with its dengue outbreak control programme.
The Ministry is placing focus on the priority areas of public education, vector control, case management and social mobilisation.
I call on all communities to be fully involved in this programme.
Vector control activities have been intensified in all parishes and these activities include:
· Source reduction to eliminate breeding sites;
· Larvicidal activities such as the oiling of water;
· Adulticidal activities including spraying and fogging to kill the adult mosquitoes.
Approximately $270 Million dollars is being reallocated through the Ministry of Health to address vector control and damage to health facilities in Portland, St. Thomas, St. Mary, St. Catherine and Kingston and St. Andrew.
We have already cleared 175 roadways. Only one road remains blocked – the Nolan Hill to Border road in the Mount Ogle area.
Although further work is being done by the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and the National Works Agency, the Cabinet yesterday approved the reallocation of resources from the 2012/2013 budget to accommodate some of the recovery and reconstruction activities across the affected parishes.
Further details of the reallocations will be provided to this Honourable House by the Minister of Finance and Planning at a later date.
The Jamaica Public Service Company reports that to date electricity supply has been restored to more than 97% of their customers. They are making every effort to restore supply to the final 3% of customers before the end of the week.
As of eight o’clock this morning, approximately 13,000 customers are still without electricity. These families are mainly in the parishes of St. Mary, St. Thomas and Portland.
Although the repair and restoration teams face challenges of access due to the difficult terrain, the JPSCo reports that they are determined to restore supply from the grid by the end of the week.
The immediate priorities for recovery assistance are:
1. Rehabilitation and reconstruction of homes that were totally destroyed or severely damaged;
2. Recovery support to crop and livestock farmers who were affected;
3. Rehabilitation/Reconstruction of health facilities, hospitals, schools and infirmaries; and
4. Medium to major infrastructural works.
A Recovery Coordinator is being engaged by ODPEM who will work out of the Recovery Secretariat located at that office.
The Recovery Coordinator will ensure effective coordination and prioritization of the recovery and reconstruction activities within the Ministries, Departments and Agencies over a period not exceeding 6 months.
The Government will communicate with the public to provide updates on the status of recovery programmes throughout the 6 month period.
The Government of Jamaica has already received commitments of support from:
· the Government of the Republic of France through its Embassy for recovery support to the health and education sectors;
· the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through their Embassy for recovery support to the education sector;
· the Government of Japan through their Embassy for recovery support to CASE and the Annotto Bay Hospital.
Financial support is also coming from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) through the Brazil/CARICOM Initiative and the Caribbean Development Bank for support to the Health Sector.
ODPEM is also coordinating the efforts of several NGO's who are garnering funding to support the national reconstruction efforts.
We have started on the road to recovery. Even before Hurricane Sandy our journey had taken us down a difficult path.
Now, since the Hurricane the roads have become rockier still. Yet, Jamaicans have been known to travel the rockiest of roads, up the steepest of paths, traverse through the most treacherous terrain to freedom, self-determination and success.
I call on all of our people once more to dig deep into the Jamaican repository of resilience and resolve.
Stand sturdy with the spirit of determination and strength bequeathed to us by those who went before.
They showed us how to make the most of the journey along difficult pathways. They taught us how to do more than just survive – but to strive… and to thrive.
As we dry out and mop up; as we rebuild, repair and restore – we must remember our neighbours near and far. For us, it could have been much worse. Yet, for thousands of persons beyond our own shores; they are facing far worse than they could have imagined. For such dislocation and displacement there can be little comfort, but we offer our hands and hearts in solidarity – and prayers as the hymn says, "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow".
Mr Speaker, I urge the people of Jamaica to lend a hand to a neighbour. Make a call to a friend. Help out the elderly, children and persons living with disabilities. Offer assistance where you can as individuals, organizations and as communities. Pack a parcel of foodstuff, or good, clean bedding and clothing and deliver to the relevant agencies and voluntary organizations.
Remember, a few cans of this or a package of that can make a huge difference for someone who has little or nothing.
Community groups and service clubs, year in and year out you do excellent work which has helped the development process of our nation enormously.
Now is a good time to 'ramp up' the action to assist those families who have lost so much, as you have done over and over again.
We are all in this thing together and we are going to work it out. The work required towards recovery is on in earnest. Each one, reach one and everyone will have a hand to hold on to.
As Jimmy Cliff sings – "…as sure as the sun does shine", better will come as we work together, pull together and pray together for those in our hemisphere, our region and our nation who need it most at this time.
Let us rise to the occasion.
Indeed Mr Speaker, when we stand together as Jamaicans, we can.
I Thank You.
God Bless this Nation.