Categorized | National News

Gov’t Building Resilience for Natural Disasters

The government is sub-funding a disaster relief fund, which it hopes will grow to $200 million in an effort to provide relief in the event of a natural disaster. 

Bahamians are also being forewarned to prepare early for natural disasters during this hurricane season, considering that for three years, The Bahamas has experienced three consecutive hurricanes. 

To get the ball rolling, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) partnered with the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) to conduct a National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment (NDPBA) Workshop.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest told participants yesterday, that it is the aim of the government to build disaster resilient communities as it is critical and must become a natural way of life, particularly in the face of climate change.

“The impact of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew and Irma on The Bahamas has been reported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to cost approximately $820 million,” Turnquest said. 

“Such a significant cost to an economy like The Bahamas is unsustainable. As a result, the government has taken steps to secure funding to deal with the eventuality of disasters.

“We’ve done this through the Contingent Credit Line that we’ve established with the Inter-American Development Bank, our participation in the Caribbean Disaster Relief Fund and we are sub-funding a disaster relief fund, which we hope to grow to approximately $200 million to assist in mitigation and relief efforts in the event we do have a catastrophic storm.” 

He added that through the NDPBA partnership, The Bahamas and the PDC will work together to address disaster risks.

“It is through proactive partnerships and collaborations such as the US-Caribbean Resilience Partnership that we can learn from our local, regional and international partners in order to position and prepare ourselves more effectively in the inevitable event of a natural disaster,” Turnquest said. 

As The Bahamas is one of the most remote chains of islands in the world, Pacific Disaster Center Director of Global Operations, Dr. Erin Hughey agrees that the country needs to be forward looking, building partnership networks to address current and emerging hazards.

“The Bahamas commitment to disaster risk reduction is commendable. You’re participation in this programme is just one of the many ways and actions the government has taken to position itself as a disaster risk reduction leader, both regionally and globally,”  Dr. Hughey said. 

“Through the generous support and funds from USNORTHCOM, this programme serves as the next generation in extension of the successful partnership and designed to address the next generation of challenges in risk that we both face.”

According to Dr. Hughey, the programme will examine risk preparedness, not only at the national level, but at island and community level making it easier to identify targeted interventions and actions to effectively reduce risk and increase overall resilience. 

“Together we will use a collaborative approach, aligned with the disaster risk reduction goals and objectives of The Bahamas, and hope to secure the future as defined by The Bahamas vision 2040 National Development Plan,” Dr. Hughey said.  

“It’s through this partnership and our shared expertise in learning that we will extend the benefits of this programme, not only for The Bahamas, but to build a safer more disaster resilient world.”

NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell told workshop participants that “The Bahamas has leveraged its culture of resilience over hundreds of years to adapt to and shape its changing environment.”

“Through this longstanding partnership with the PDC and the Baseline Assessment programme, The Bahamas can take the next step in its journey of growth to address the challenges that we have yet to face,” Captain Russell said. 

“Baseline Assessment will also help develop and strengthen disaster preparedness and response plans not just here on New Providence, but for all Family Islands.”

The Baseline Assessment also creates an opportunity for The University of The Bahamas Small Island Sustainability Centre and Hawaii’s Institute for Sustainability and Resilience to collectively study the most pressing questions and emerging threats related to climate change. 

The workshop kicked-off yesterday at the British Colonial Hilton. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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