State Minister Forbes Opens 2015 CDM Conference on Disaster Resilience

Nassau, Bahamas, November 30th, 2015 (BIS) – Regional resilience to natural disasters is the focus of the 2015 Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency's (CDEMA) forum on Comprehensive Disaster Management, in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), following the aftermath of a tumultuous hurricane season that left devastation in the Southern Bahamas.

State Minister for the Ministry of Works & Urban Development, the Hon. Arnold Forbes, The Bahamas' CDEMA Representative, extended a warm welcome on behalf of all Bahamians to the delegates who travelled to the Bahamas to participate in the Conference.

"We are constantly reminded that The Bahamas and the countries in our region are located in one of the most vulnerable areas in the world. The risks we face threaten our fragile economies and demand that we have in place sound disaster risk management systems," said State Minister Forbes.

"The Bahamas, a multi-island state, as well as several other multi islands states in the region are also faced with the challenges associated with building redundancy in resources. We nevertheless, have to remain resolute in our efforts to build disaster resilient states."

On November 30, The Bahamas welcomed CDEMA's Participating States to the 9th Comprehensive Disaster Management Conference, at the official opening ceremony, at Melia Nassau Beach Resort. The conference takes place November 30th to December 4th, 2015, under the theme "The Road To Resilience Checkpoint 2015."

"Today, November 30, marks the official end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and this year Hurricane Joaquin and Tropical Storm Kate have reminded Bahamians once again of our vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards," said Minister Forbes.

"We are currently recovering from the destruction that Joaquin’s storm surge and flood waters caused to infrastructure and homes and the concomitant disruption to our lives and livelihood."

Minister Forbes expressed gratitude to CDEMA for their support in organizing and deploying three Rapid Needs Assessment Teams (RNAT) to Acklins, Crooked Island, and Long Island, the worst hit of the Family Islands in Central Bahamas. He also thanked agencies that deployed personnel for the RNAT.

"These included the National Disaster Offices of BVI and ODPEM, PAHO, CARPHA, DFATD, UN OCHA/UNDAC and the Barbados Coastal Zone Management. The Government and people of The Bahamas are indeed grateful," said Minister Forbes.

"Over in Dominica, our brothers and sisters experienced tremendous loss from the passage of Tropical Storm Erika. Torrential rains on August 27 resulted in flooding and catastrophic mudslides, which caused the deaths of 20 persons and devastation of several villages. According to reports from the Government of Dominica, EC1.2 billion dollars is needed for the rebuilding process."

Minister Forbes said that the 2015 Hurricane Season, although considered a below average season, saw many countries across the region placing their response mechanisms on alert or activation as systems formed and threatened their islands.

"This year, drought situations were noted in many countries, including Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Haiti, Guyana. Weather experts believe that hydro-meteorological events that are affecting the region are evidence of the climate change and climate variability phenomena," said Minister Forbes.

"Countries across the region have also been rattled by an increase in earthquakes and the rumblings of Kick -‘em-Jenny, the underwater volcano off the coast of Grenada. Scientists at the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine have also been telling us that the region is due for a large earthquake."

Minister Forbes reminded the audience that last year, the panic and near hysteria of the Ebola threat, also reminded the region to remain cognizant of the threat of technological and other human-induced disaster events.

"I have drawn attention to these occurrences to illustrate that as a country and a region we must seek to continue the process of integrating Comprehensive Disaster Management into all sectors, and to promote its practice by all stakeholders," said Minister Forbes.

"In The Bahamas, our Government has fully embraced the CDM concept and stands behind its endorsement of the Regional CDM Strategy and Framework for 2014-2024."

Minister Forbes added that our Honorable Prime Minister [Christie] has been named among the first Political Level CDM Champions. As a result, he said we now recognize that getting everyone on board is not an easy task, although we remain resolute in our efforts.

"We are also looking to work closer with the CDEMA Coordinating Unit to support advancement of CDM. Early this year, the NEMA team met with the CDEMA Coordinating Unit to discuss the country work programme and its alignment with national goals identified in the regional CDM Strategy. Our priorities at this time are focused on the mapping of vulnerable areas and on community preparedness," said Minister Forbes.

"We are seeking to build capacity in the islands and to bring communities to a point where they can respond in the immediate aftermath to events. As a multi-island state, we need to have systems in place to be able to respond in a timely way to our Family Islands and are working to build logistics capacity in this regard."

Minister Forbes concluded with his belief that the Bahamas is on the “Road to Resilience.“

"We view the hosting of the 9th CDM Conference, as a privilege of being able to provide the space to further discussions on the progress of CDM implementation not only in The Bahamas, but in all the 18 CDEMA Participating States. We are also happy to have among us at this Conference, disaster management practitioners from Latin America and other Caribbean States, the Pacific and globally who will share their experiences on disaster risk reduction efforts," said Minister Forbes.

"I have perused the programme and am sure that at the end of the four days, we will all leave here with a better understanding of what we need to do in our respective ways to move further along the 'CDM Road to Resilience'."

" I wish you a successful Conference and encourage you to take time out each day to sample the delights of The Bahamas," said Minister Forbes.

The Bahamas, through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, is hosting the Ninth Comprehensive Disaster Management Conference of CDEMA, Monday, November 30 to December 4, 2015 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort. The conference is under the theme: “The Road to Resilience Checkpoint 2015.” Pictured in photo following the opening ceremony are from left: Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA; The Hon. Adriel Brathwaite, Chairman, CDEMA Council; the Hon. Arnold Forbes, Minister of State, Ministry of Works and Urban Development; The Most Hon. P J Patterson, former Prime Minister, Jamaica; and, at right, Rev. Ranford Patterson, President, Bahamas Christian Council.  (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs) Delegates attending the Opening Ceremony of the Ninth Comprehensive Disaster Management Conference of CDEMA, Monday, November 30, 2015 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)
Delegates attending the Opening Ceremony of the Ninth Comprehensive Disaster Management Conference of CDEMA, Monday, November 30, 2015 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs) Students of Eva Hilton Primary School put on an energetic performance the Opening Ceremony of the Ninth Comprehensive Disaster Management Conference, Monday, November 30, 2015 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort.  (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)
CDEMA Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Resilience Way, Lower Estate, St. Michael Tel: (246) 434-4880, Fax: (246) 271-3660
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