The challenge of post-hurricane rebuilding

Posted by at 21 September, at 14 : 33 PM Print

Caribupdate Weekly, Editorial

September 21, 2017

In last week’s editorial, when Caribupdate Weekly commented on the effects on the peoples and countries of the Americas of the current series of natural disasters, little did we know that the situation could have grown worse, so quickly. But, indeed it has.

Mexico, within just 12 days, has been hit by two deadly earthquakes that have claimed more than 300 lives. The second of the two quakes, on Tuesday, resulted in schools and other structures collapsing.

Closer to us here in Grenada, we’re still trying to come to grips with the reality that yet another of our regional neighbour, Dominica, has had to endure the fury of a catastrophic hurricane. At press time, 14 Dominicans were said to have died as a direct result of Hurricane Maria. Communication facilities have been disrupted and infrastructure badly damaged. There also are reports of shortage of food and water in Dominica, and looting has been taking place in some areas. Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica, has declared a 4 PM to 8 AM state of emergency and a curfew.

According to Hartley Henry, Prime Minister Skerrit’s principal advisor, the main general hospital took a beating from Maria and “patient-care has been compromised’’. Henry explained that “urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts’’. Dominica, he said, “has been devastated’’ and the country “needs the support and continued help and prayers of all’’.

The path of Hurricane Maria’s trail of death and destruction has also included Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. These countries and others – such as Haiti, Cuba, the British and US Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Tortola, Barbuda, Anguilla, Antigua, St Kitts & Nevis, Turks & Caicos Islands, and St Martin – all have been impacted by one or more of this season’s hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and now Maria.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who also is chairman of the Caribbean Community, admits that the region has a major challenge on its hands with the widespread hurricane destruction and the costs involved in rebuilding. We agree it’s a challenge both for the affected islands and also for those, like Grenada, that so far have been spared a direct onslaught by a hurricane in this 2017 season.

For us, across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, we are morally obliged to assist, in every which way we can, our friends and family in the Hurricane-affected territories – from Cuba in the north to Dominica in the south. It’s simply the right and righteous thing to do. It’s also the good and decent thing to do, as we reciprocate to countries that came to our rescue when Grenada was virtually demolished by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. And, in the case of Cuba, we have a country that has given unselfishly to Grenada since 1979.

The regional rebuilding exercise will also impact on our financial resources. No doubt, aid from regional and international lending agencies, such as the Caribbean Development Bank and World Bank, would be realigned to take into account the new reality of the hurricane devastation. Even here at home, there’s likely to be some shift in expenditure. Prior to Monday, the Grenada government had announced a one-million-dollar contribution for the relief assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irma. With the situation now confronting Dominica, the government may be forced to dig deeper and give a little bit more.

The plight of the region is being taken up at the United Nation in New York, where countries are meeting at the annual UN General Assembly.

Miguel Vargas Maldonado, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, on Wednesday called on the UN to consider “new actions we must take, urgently, to counteract extreme climatic phenomena.”

Before leaving Antigua for the UN meeting, Prime Minister Gaston Browne made it clear that he would focus the world’s attention on climate change and its effect on the Caribbean. Browne reiterated that “climate change is real’’, and that Caribbean nations are the ones suffering its consequences.

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