Friday, January 15, 2010

Caricom Aids Haiti, PM wants summit

BARBADOS: CARICOM countries to the rescue of Haiti; PM Gonsalves wants special summit
Posted by admin on 1/15/10

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday called for a special summit to deal with what he termed the “catastrophe” in Haiti but said the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) simply could not wait in dispatching much-needed emergency aid to the earthquake-devastated member state.

“We ought to have a special summit on it because it is a catastrophe and it is a catastrophe that has happened in one of our member states but we don’t have to wait until the meeting comes…we don’t need to talk to send resources immediately,” Ralph Gonsalves told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), in support of an earlier call made by his Grenadian counterpart Tillman Thomas.

During a live regional television special on “the Horror in Haiti”, Gonsalves, whose government has been meeting on a national response to the situation in Port au Prince, said the circumstances in Haiti demanded that CARICOM “lift its game”.

He further labeled it “an awesome tragedy”, adding that “it is a hell of a beating that they (Haiti) have taken with this one (earthquake) and they need all the help they can get and we have to do the best we can”.

Gonsalves also disclosed that efforts were currently underway within the six independent states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union – namely Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines – to raise a million US dollars in financial support for Haiti.

He said his country, which operates a rice mill and flour mill, was also in the process of dispatching emergency supplies in conjunction with its regional neighbours.
His comments came as a CARICOM fact-finding mission, led by the grouping’s Chairman, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, prepared to enter Haiti Friday.
A statement from the Georgetown-based regional secretariat said the team also includes CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington, Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson and his Jamaican counterpart Bruce Golding.

“The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is co-coordinating the regional response for its latest member Haiti which joined in September 2009. The regional response mechanism has identified four priority areas in this regard: emergency aid; shelter; search and rescue; and communication,” the CARICOM release said.

It also informed that search and rescue teams were on standby to travel to the disaster area “and CDEMA has also been liaising with its partners, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Regional Security System (RSS), the CARICOM Secretariat, CAREC/PAHO and the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) with a view to putting in place immediately, an assessment team in order to provide appropriate guidance for the immediate needs of the Haitian people”.

The assessment team will also be travelling to Haiti on Friday, the statement said.

Tuesday’s earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale rocked Haiti Tuesday leaving tens of thousands feared dead and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to government and private property.

It was the worst to hit the Island for two centuries.

“This latest setback to the development of the country will truly test the resilience of the Haitian people. Their tremendous resolve and determination however, will undoubtedly serve them in great stead as they move forward from this tragic event,” the CARICOM statement said.

While Guyana and other regional territories, and international bodies have pledged financial and other material support for the CARICOM state, coordinating relief efforts have been a challenge.

“In light of the communication difficulties, some of the staff of the CARICOM Representation Office in Haiti (CROH) have not yet been accounted for. The Office has not been damaged,” the release said.

It said “CARICOM has accepted an offer from the Government of Australia for immediate assistance to help the rapid response effort and there has also been collaboration with the United States Office of Disaster Assistance (OFDA) based in Miami, Florida.”