Georgetown, Guyana – (September 11, 2017) As the region grapples with the devastation brought on by Hurricane Irma and impending threats of Hurricane Jose, the Government of Guyana has pledged an initial sum of US $50,000 to aid urgent relief efforts through the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) regional mechanism, which is coordinated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in partnership with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). Further assistance will be determined subsequent to the completion of a Needs Assessment. This was announced today, following a high-level meeting convened by President David Granger at State House. The Head of State has tasked the team with ensuring that Guyana’s response also comprehensively addresses the needs of Guyanese citizens, who are residing in the affected territories.
Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, who has responsibility disaster relief, announced the initial sum committed by Government noting that Needs Assessments are being conducted at the regional level and added that regular Situation Reports are being monitored as Guyana continues to work with the Region to ensure a coordinated response. Additionally, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo will Head a Ministerial Task Force that will be responsible for oversight of the efforts of the Civil Defence Commission’s (CDC) National Risk Reduction Platform, which has since been activated.
“We are concerned about our Nationals in these Caribbean territories ravaged by Hurricane Irma and the possible harm that will be caused by Hurricane Jose and we want to reach out to them… The Task Force, first and foremost, will try to access information about the number of Guyanese affected and the places where they are affected and to make general appeals to Guyanese in the Caribbean to get in touch with the Consulates in those areas or in other parts, where they can access Consulate services. We need the information as to Guyanese who may want to be evacuated or who may want assistance in this point in time of a specific nature,” the Prime Minister explained.
He also informed that over the next few days, strenuous efforts will be made to keep an open line of communication to ensure that relatives of those residing in hurricane-hit zones are provided with the necessary information regarding their loved ones. “We will work to render assistance to Guyanese nationals in Caribbean countries and generally to the affected states themselves. We want to be able to have an inventory of students, who are on scholarships in Cuba and in other parts of the Caribbean and to see to it that such information is provided to their families,” the Prime Minister said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge said that Cuba has better infrastructure than many of the other Caribbean countries and noted that from current reports, the Ministry has no reason to believe that scholarship students are in any danger or have suffered in any alarming way. Nevertheless, the Ministry will be setting up a portal on its website to facilitate communication between those affected and their families as well as the authorities in Guyana.
Lack of communication is one of the major difficulties that the regional response effort faces. Minister Greenidge explained that while there is a basic framework of communication such as Honorary Consuls, Ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives, the storm has ravaged communications infrastructure, especially in places like St. Maarten, St. Barts and Barbuda.
“If you call the Honorary Counsel in any one of these places few of them could respond because either the electricity or the communications network is down so we are using whatever mechanisms we can… They Governments of the region, including Guyana have committed themselves to working through the CARICOM mechanism. The Secretariat has oversight of the coordination of this exercise together with the Association of Caribbean States [ACS] and then the specific disaster relief agencies such as IMPACS [CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security], RSS [Regional Security System] and CDEMA, which are the agencies who make needs assessment and will indicate to us what is needed,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.