Antigua Observer, Antigua, September 8th, 2012 (www.antiguaobserver.com )- Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Jeremy Collymore lauded the strides that have been made in disaster management over the past two decades. Collymore, who will be demitting office, has been a part of CDEMA from its inception in 1991. He said over the course of his tenure he has noticed institutional change in the way member states manage disasters.
“If I were to look at where we were in 1991 to now, there has been some significant progress,” he said. “We’ve moved from very ad-hoc arrangements with part-time offices focusing on hurricane preparedness information.
“Now all of the 18 CDEMA participating states have full-time staff, designated facilities. They have at least a solid hurricane programme (and) a government budget that supports it, although it’s not always adequate.”
The retiring director noted that the region now has information and educational programmes that are year round and preparedness has moved from only hurricane focused to include floods and earthquakes.
“We have people in offices that at least have subject matter experience, although we don’t have enough,” he said. “We have governments who have passed legislation and we have designated facilities.”
He added that the landscape, both physical and institutional, has changed. “I always say to our constituencies, ‘when you measure where we are, remember where we started from and where we are going,’” Collymore said.
He was speaking at a press conference at the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) on Friday that marked his last mission as executive director to Antigua & Barbuda.
“The purpose of my mission is to look at and update the government on some of the disaster reduction issues regionally and how they impact on, and can be supported by, the regional initiatives and the local programme,” Collymore said.
Also in attendance of the press conference were Minister of Social Transformation Willmoth Daniel, Parliamentary Secretary in the ministry Malaka Parker and Director of NODS Philmore Mullins.
Minister Daniel noted that the country would miss the valuable contribution that Collymore has made to the Caribbean territories.
“He has been able to negotiate on our behalf and raise funds to assist us in taking care of our problems in our hour of disaster,” Daniel said. “I want to wish him all the best.”
Senator Parker echoed similar sentiments saying that while most might not know it, Collymore’s work has touched every life on this small island.
“Through his efforts, his advocacy, his interests and his commitment a lot of aid assistance has come to this territory through the NODS department,” she said.
Meantime, Collymore noted that the government of Antigua & Barbuda is not behind in its obligations to CDEMA.
“As I seek to demit office, we are happy to note that the government of Antigua is not in arrears,” he said. “We see this to be a very strong signal of recognition of the benefit of the programme and the relevance of the agency to its policy priorities, especially in the area of disaster risk reduction.”
Daniel noted that it is one of the first times that Antigua has kept abreast of its contributions.
“That is something that speaks volumes,” he said. “It seems to me that the government has gone a little further in terms of enacting and adhering to the requests by CDEMA to put certain things in place in terms of disaster purposes.”
The minister added that plans are afoot to put in place disaster programmes in the schools and the various workplaces. “We will have an organised plan so that people can vacate the areas in an orderly fashion,” he said.