JIS News

Significant work in establishing the necessary framework that will mainstream disaster risk reduction and management has already been undertaken in at least two sectors, Mitigation Programme Officer at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ms. Kareema Aitkens-Mitchell, has disclosed.
Speaking at a recent workshop on: ‘Strengthening Partnerships for Disaster Risk Reduction’, at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in Kingston, Ms. Aitkens-Mitchell informed that work is advanced in the Agriculture and Fisheries, and Tourism sectors.
Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management focusses on the strategic frameworks, sectoral strategies and policies pursued and implemented within institutional structures, which address risks emanating from natural hazards.
Citing, as an example, the damage and dislocation which Jamaica sustained as a consequence of the passage of hurricane Ivan in 2004, which she said represented eight per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Ms. Aitkens-Mitchell stressed the importance of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management within all sectors to enable Jamaica to effectively deal with its vulnerability to natural hazards. Noting the work which ODPEM has undertaken in the agricultural sector, she said “some strides” have been made with an initiative, which they started in May 2008.
“We now have a draft agriculture disaster risk management. We have also embarked on, through assistance with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), some sustainable livelihood sectors. So, some capacity and knowledge are being transferred in agriculture,” she informed.
Regarding tourism, the Mitigation Programme Officer noted that ODPEM has “done a few” hazard and vulnerability assessments with stakeholders, incorporating disaster risk management training.
“In 2007, for the first time, they (stakeholders) had their emergency operations centre up and running. The success stories coming out of that were great. They were able to manage the negative impact that hurricane Dean had on that sector,” Ms. Aitkens-Mitchell explained.
She added that there are other tourism-related projects being pursued, mainly with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and Organization of American States, with the aim of continuing the mainstreaming effort.
Ms. Aitkens-Mitchell advised that ODPEM is currently embarking on several initiatives, which should enhance the nation’s resilience to natural hazards, as part of the agency’s goal and vision to mainstream disaster risk management and reduction.
She also noted that a move is being made to re-draft the current ODPEM Act (1993), work on which is still at the Bill stage.
“If and when it is passed, it should give us a little more clout where declaring vulnerable areas or effecting mandatory evacuations are concerned. And, of course, force the hand of those stakeholders who do not willingly or actively participate in the process,” she added.
Ms. Aitkens-Mitchell informed that as ODPEM continues its mainstreaming efforts, the agency will seek to expand its interventions beyond agriculture and tourism, and aim to focus on the housing sector next year.

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