CARICOM strengthens response to Haiti

Bridgetown, Barbados, January 20, 2010 (CDEMA) – CARICOM efforts to provide relief to Haiti after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 are being strengthened following an assessment of the situation on the ground. Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Jeremy Collymore updated on the CARICOM response to Haiti at a press conference today at the CDEMA Coordinating Unit in Barbados.
The Executive Director stressed the role that the region has played to date singling out the role of Jamaica, the CDEMA Sub Regional Focal Point (SRFP) with responsibility for Haiti.

Immediately on receiving notification of the earthquake, the Director of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) communicated with the Executive Director of CDEMA and confirmed that Jamaica as the SRFP with responsibility for Haiti, would take the lead on immediate actions in response to the event.

Collymore said, “It is important to recognize the efforts of Jamaica within the larger context of the Regional Response Mechanism (RRM). The mission by the Jamaican Prime Minister was the genesis for informing the community’s prioritizing focus of its efforts in Haiti.”

“Jamaica (the SRFP) responded to the catastrophe within the first 24 hours deploying a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) vessel with military personnel and emergency supplies and is now the staging point for CARICOM relief activities to Haiti.”

CDEMA’s SRFP has provided search and rescue support, rescuing three persons and recovering two bodies in collaboration with international agencies. Additionally, the team has provided health support services, treating approximately 400 persons and performing minor surgeries. The team is also conducting ongoing public health awareness activities.

The SRFP is also providing security assistance to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) efforts and the more than 350 personnel from eleven CARICOM countries currently involved in the operations area.

The CDEMA head declared that responding to the Haiti earthquake has been “the major challenge to the humanitarian response practice globally in recent times.”

He noted that a major challenge to the response effort is “congestion on the ground of ‘unprioritised’ response driven more by emotional considerations rather than a structured mechanism have contributed to delays in the delivery of aid.” He said the delivery of emergency aid is further compromised by the damage to the sea ports.

As CARICOM intensifies its response, efforts will be centered on both short and long term initiatives in the targeted community.

He noted that the Community’s intervention going forward will be based on three principles. It is holistic, targeted and developmental.

The primary focus will be on the health sector. This will encompass assessment of facilities, emergency repair, provision of medical and support personnel, critical medical supplies, emergency supplies and security.

Regional governments have already pledged four million US dollars along with a cadre of emergency support, supplies and materials to the Haiti relief effort. This does not include the substantial fund raising activities by civil society.

CARICOM has also enhanced its presence in Haiti with a Special Coordinator appointed by CDEMA who is working with Haiti Civil Defence Protection, and the CARICOM security forces, international donors and humanitarian community on the ground to ensure a sustained and effective coordination of the CARICOM relief efforts.

In addition, the CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU) will continue to deploy regional emergency and medical personnel to strengthen and support the work of 350 CARICOM personnel already on the ground.

CARICOM recognizes the need for the continued support of Haiti beyond the response period and will continue to work towards meeting those needs beyond this initial response phase.

CDEMA Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Resilience Way, Lower Estate, St. Michael Tel: (246) 434-4880, Fax: (246) 271-3660
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