As construction of the US$4 million headquarters for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), got under way today, a clarion call was made to partners to ensure that the regional agency was able to discharge its mandate.

Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, issued this call as he addressed the ground breaking ceremony of the new CDEMA headquarters at Lears, St. Michael.??

Mr. Brathwaite said many, if not all, regional institutions, including CDEMA were financially challenged, but warned that having aid without proper coordination would only come to naught.?????That is why from inception it was easy for me to recognise [that] if we did not put in place the machinery to ensure that we could respond to disasters, we could wipe out 25 to 50 years of gain just by not being able to respond,??? he cautioned.

The Minister stressed that it was important for Barbados and the region to respond to manmade or natural disasters. He added that he looked forward to the continued work of CDEMA which was important for the region to continue building resilient communities to withstand disasters.

Expressing his agreement, Executive Director of CDEMA, Ronald Jackson, noted that the Caribbean was very vulnerable to a variety of hazards which had the potential to significantly impact and reverse development gains.?????We must also bear in mind that globally we are experiencing new and emerging risks and hazards. Of particular concern are the effects of global climate change, and climate variability which are already increasing the frequency and possibly the intensity of climate hazards, especially storm events,??? he said.

The Executive Director stated that today???s groundbreaking also highlighted the partnership that existed between the Barbados Government, the United States Southern Command and CDEMA.

He said: ???Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) is the regional approach to disaster risk management which responds to the priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action, and which is endorsed by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.???

Mr. Jackson further explained that CDEMA, through the CDM, sought to address at the national, regional, sectoral and community levels, the existing risk factors and tried to build capacity for planning and responding to emergencies.

He told those present that CDEMA launched its new integrated risk management strategy, the CDM Strategy 3, last December, which would provide the strategic road map for the next 10 years to achieve national and regional resilience.

The new CDEMA headquarters will feature a training facility, a Regional Coordination Centre, a warehouse and the agency???s offices. The purpose-built facility will occupy just over 13, 000 square feet of land, and will be leased from Government for 25 years, to enhance CDEMA???s capabilities for emergency planning and response, and contribute to the growth of the regional skills base for disaster management.

The project, funded by the United States Southern Command is expected to be completed within 12 months.

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