Minister Lewis Opens Bahamas, UNDP, UWI Disaster Recovery Workshop

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The Hon. Iram Lewis, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction (left) and Jeremy Collymore, an Honorary Research Fellow at the UWI’s Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), interact at the opening of a Workshop on Recovery Policy, Recovery Plan, and the Institutional Arrangements for Implementation, held Monday, February 17, 2020 in the Securities Commission training room, East Bay Street. (BIS Photo/Lindsay Thompson)

The Government of The Bahamas is continuing to strengthen the national disaster management mechanism, post-Hurricane Dorian, which struck communities in North Abaco and Cays and East Grand Bahama in September 2019. In this vein, a Workshop on Recovery Policy, Recovery Plan, and the Institutional Arrangements for Implementation is being held to prepare the country to better address the impact of catastrophic storm. The two-day workshop was officially opened Monday morning, February 17, 2020 by the Hon. Iram Lewis, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction.

The workshop follows meetings of consultants from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Asad Mohammed and Evangeline Inniss-Springer, with Bahamian officials, January 13-18, 2020 to support the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) work on recovery, post-Hurricane Dorian.  Facilitating the workshop are the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management & Reconstruction, UNDP and UWI. Discussions focused on resilient Bahamas vision and policy, planning for recovery, priorities to be addressed, among other issues. “With the assistance of its partners the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management & Reconstruction will review policies and strategies against regional and international standards, and develop appropriate institutional arrangements that will address national and regional planning and support,” Mr. Lewis said.

Participants at a Workshop on Recovery Policy, Recovery Plan, and the Institutional Arrangements for Implementation, held Monday, February 17, 2020 in the Securities Commission training room, East Bay Street. Also pictured are Captain Stephen Russell, Director, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); Gayle Outten-Moncur, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary, NEMA; Carl Smith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction; and John Michael Clarke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority.
(BIS Photo/Lindsay Thompson)

“We have to update and improve our laws, policies, procedures and state agencies for these times,” he added. “We must rethink where we put infrastructure. We must rethink how close our communities are to the coast.” Mr. Lewis recalled that Hurricane Dorian, with its maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, tied it with the 1935 Labour Day Hurricane that hit the Florida Keys.  It was the strongest storm to land in the Atlantic and specifically The Bahamas. With gusts of 220 miles per hour, and 20-plus-foot storm surge, Dorian destroyed homes, businesses and communities. It claimed lives and many remain missing. “The Government of The Bahamas knew right away that no Small Island Developing State could respond alone to a storm like Dorian,” Mr. Lewis said. “We welcomed assistance from partner countries, international NGOs, churches, businesses, multilateral institutions and individuals,” Mr. Lewis said. “That combined effort continues to this day to help those who lost so much.”

He noted that the Government also realized that the historic scope of Dorian’s destruction required new state structures.  It established a new Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management & Reconstruction. Additionally, an Act of Parliament created the Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority for the management of reconstruction and restoration in the northern disaster zones. While the Authority is focused on leading reconstruction in the disaster zones, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is focused on preparation for and mitigation against potential future disasters.

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