Government is continuing its efforts to reduce Barbados’ risks to natural disasters, and increase the island’s resilience.
Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, highlighted this fact as he outlined a number of measures being undertaken by government to increase Barbados’ resilience to natural disasters.
He was at the time speaking during a partnership event hosted by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at its Resilience Way, Lower Estate, St Michael headquarters yesterday.
Mr. Hinkson pointed out that small island developing states had reached the stage where they needed to invest more in risk reduction in order to reduce the risk of adverse impacts on their economies and infrastructure.
“We, in Barbados, are establishing risk maps for high risk areas. We have increased the organization of information campaigns to raise awareness among our populations, especially in terms of our most vulnerable, our elderly, our people with disabilities, [and] single women with many children. We have set up early warning systems, and we have implemented targeted public infrastructure projects,” he said.
The Minister further pointed out that small island developing states, like Barbados, also needed to pay attention to enforcing land use and zoning rules.
But, he admitted, Barbados was not as competent and as proficient as it should have been in the past to prevent people building on natural water courses, which resulted in problems.
“You need to enforce in a greater capacity, and to a greater degree building codes and need to look at our retrofitting requirements to reduce our exposure to disaster damage, and have to look at providing incentives to the private sector for investment into risk reduction,” Mr. Hinkson said, stressing that both the private sector and communities needed to be on board if resilience to natural disasters was to be increased.
During his address, the Minister lauded the work done by USAID to assist countries in the region, noting that Barbados, other small island developing states and the United States were all connected in terms of their ability to survive disasters.
“The United States recognizes its responsibility as the ‘big brother’ and the better financially resourced and technically resourced partner to assist our Caribbean islands in this sphere,” Mr. Hinkson said.
This was supported by USAID Administrator, Mark Green, who affirmed that the US “will always stand with the people of the Caribbean when disaster strikes; lending a hand to our friends and neighbours during their time of great need”.
He also announced an additional US$10 million investment to bolster disaster preparedness and response across the Caribbean.
Mr. Green explained that the new resources would support activities to minimize the damage of disasters; reduce the loss of life and enhance response efforts.
He added that at the local level, it would result in training for first responders, education and messaging campaigns for communities and the development of localized emergency response plans.
“At the national level, the assistance will help to harmonize policies and operational procedures across agencies; ensure the facilities and equipment meet international standards; and facilitate post disaster performance reviews and assessment.
“Regionally the funding will support intergovernmental coordination and information sharing, helping each Caribbean nation to work together to face a shared threat,” the administrator pointed out, stressing that USAID was committed to helping its partners across the Caribbean to prepare for the worst, and avert disasters.