Disaster ManagementPress ReleasesStatements and Declarations


On behalf of the Caribbean Community and on behalf of the Representatives of the Regional institutions who have been introduced to you, I wish to reiterate the expressions of concern and continued solidarity and support among the Member States of the Community, contained in a letter of 20th January 2005, from the Chairman of The Conference, H.E. Drs. Runaldo R. Venetiaan to H.E. President Bharrat Jagdeo, on the flood disaster and its aftermath in Guyana.

It is always a pleasure for me to get together with you, the media corps. Early last December I saw 2005 as a momentous year for the Community, I anticipated “The Year of the Single Market”, the completion of the Headquarters Building at Liliendaal, and our moving into it, the inauguration of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and the restructuring of the CARICOM Secretariat.

Then and later, nothing in our experience or planning could have prepared us for the catastrophe which struck Guyana just two weeks into the New Year; unprecedented flooding with attendant despair, desolation and displacement of thousands of Guyanese, primarily in greater Georgetown, and on the East and West Coasts.

As was the case with Hurricane Ivan in the Eastern and Northern Caribbean, one could never have imagined nor anticipated the sheer magnitude, gravity, social and economic impact of the flooding now being experienced in Guyana.

I need not recount any of the many tales of the impact of the flooding on the citizens and residents of the affected areas in Guyana. The majority of the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat has also been affected. Many have had to relocate temporarily while others soldier on, daily, back-and-forth through floodwaters, which in some places appear reluctant to recede.

We were forced to close the Secretariat for one week, from 18th to 25th January due to the dislocation of staff, while other staff, some themselves quite severely affected also, found novel ways to establish the status and location of their colleagues, and re-supply them with water and other emergency supplies the Secretariat procured for that purpose. Even at this time, a team of persons from the Secretariat contribute daily to the relief effort by packaging supplies at the Central Packaging Unit operated by the National Civil Defence Commission, in spite of whatever difficulties they might be facing at home.

Notwithstanding the difficulties, we continue to work to the best of our ability, after a week's closure, with a skeleton staff, as we prepare for the upcoming Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of Government and related meetings in Paramaribo, and the Inauguration of our Headquarters building in three weeks' time.

Members of the Media also affected, I congratulate them for soldiering on and keeping the Community informed.

The Caribbean Community has responded in a number of ways.

At the outset, the Secretariat contacted the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), to alert it to the situation and the need to activate regional support. Immediately CDERA in consultation with Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) was able to obtain US$100,000 to continue working with the relevant Government of Guyana agencies and other regional and international agencies.

I have had the opportunity to speak with H.E. the President of Guyana and other Government officials. I have also spoken with the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government, President Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan, of the Republic of Suriname; the Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; and representatives of other CARICOM Governments who have all voiced their concern and indicated their countries' willingness to contribute toward the restoration efforts in Guyana. I also took the personal initiative to write to every CARICOM Head of Government to convey to them the gravity of the situation as I saw it.

Following discussions with the Chairman of the Community, the Secretariat today convened an Emergency Meeting of Caribbean Community health institutions to discuss in particular the health implications of the current flood in Guyana and to devise a medium and long term strategy, in collaboration with the Government of Guyana, for minimising its adverse effects.

I am heartened by the response from them at relatively short notice. The following institutions and agencies participated at the highest levels at this morning's meeting as follows:

    1.     The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guyana

    2.     The Joint Operations Centre (JOC)

    3.     Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA)

    4.     Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) 5. Caribbean Environment Health Institute (CEHI)

    6.     Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI)

    7.      Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO)

    8.      United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC)

Before our meeting this morning the team also was able to meet with the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy. That meeting provided guidance for our two and a half hour meeting at the CARICOM Headquarters. Our meeting was a very fruitful one and as a result were able to arrive at a number of strategies for rapid response and medium and long-term measures which we will propose to Government to assist in alleviating the suffering of the thousands of persons affected.

You will have a chance to address questions to the representatives of the participating agencies.

My reason for inviting you here today is two-fold:

    1)      to receive a briefing on the results of our meeting today and

    2)      to observe the handing-over of household relief supplies to the Guyana Civil Defence Commission.

These supplies were acquired by the Secretariat, thanks to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and to BWIA for free transportation, we have been able to obtain a significant amount of food and other supplies, some of which we have made available to the staff most affected, but most of which we will be making available today to the appropriate national agency for distribution to the Guyanese people.

In summary, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) stands committed to collective action to assist the Government of Guyana in the response, relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

The Community remains in contact with the Government in various ways including through ongoing telephone conversations between Chairman Venetiaan and President Jagdeo.

Our hearts and minds remain with the Government and people of Guyana. We remain confident that given the proven resilience of the Guyanese people, we will be able to work together to meet this challenging situation and thus accelerate the vital recovery process.

I now have the pleasure of introducing my colleagues:

    1.      Dr. James Hospedales, Director, Caribbean Epidemiology Centre.

    2.      Mr. Jeremy Collymore, Coordinator of CDERA

    3.      Mr. Vincent Sweeny, CEHI

    4.      Dr. Ballayram, CFNI

    5.     Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, Deputy Secretary-General

    6.     Dr. Edward Greene, Assistant Secretary-General in our Directorate for Human and Social Development.

It is now my pleasure to present to you, Col. Ramsarup, of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), this token of our support for the people of Guyana.


Show More
Back to top button