Earlier this month Barbuda was one of several islands in the northern Caribbean that was battered by Hurricane Irma, prompting a call for a mandatory evacuation of the island by Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Last week the powerful Hurricane Maria swept over Dominica, leaving widespread destruction in her wake.
“I am heartened by the fact that the response throughout the region, within the limited means available to us has been swift and decisive,” Mitchell told the sixth annual meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Development Fund here.
“We don’t have a choice. Because the world in 2004 was a bit different than this one today. The language from the north is certainly different than Grenada found it in 2004,” Mitchell said, in reference to his own country’s experience with Hurricane Ivan in 2004, which decimated the island.
The CARICOM Chairman warned that the road to recovery will be a long and arduous one, which will carry “a huge unenviable price tag”.
“We must therefore maintain the demonstration of solidarity I mentioned earlier on, and build on a momentum that was created post Irma and post Maria in the emergency relief and recovery phase,” he said, before departing for Dominica where he was expected to meet with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Meanwhile CDF Chairman, Sherwin Williams told the meeting that the Fund stands ready to assist Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica with their reconstruction efforts in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria under the current funding cycle.
“While the official damage assessments have not yet been completed, we already know that the magnitude of this economic rebuilding effort will be far too great for the region to handle on its own; so we must also be able to attract external resources.
‘Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to invite interested development agencies present here and those who will otherwise receive this message, to partner with the CDF in designing and implementing economic reconstruction programmes in the disaster-stricken countries of the region. But we need to move quickly, since these programmes would need to start taking effect within the next few months,” Williams said.
According to him, these natural disasters provide the CDF with an opportunity to allocate some of the resources earmarked for country assistance programmes towards the recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“Indeed, it was contemplated when the Fund was set up that we would assist regions disadvantaged by reason of impairment of resources resulting from natural disasters,” Williams said.