By Carlena Knight
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is already making plans with officials on the ground in Haiti to assist following Saturday’s devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
Executive Director Elizabeth Riley explained that discussions have been ongoing for two days and the body has committed to deploying fully vaccinated CDEMA officials to the disaster-hit country.
Concern is however being raised as Haiti is expected to be negatively impacted by Tropical Storm Grace. It is feared heavy rain brought by TS Grace could trigger landslides.
“We have been in discussions with them for the past two days as the information has come forward getting a better understanding of what has actually transpired where the regional system could best provide support.
“Haiti has made a formal request now to the CDEMA to provide support on the coordination side in their national emergency operations centre in Port-au-Prince, and we initiated those arrangements yesterday evening and, due to the pending threat of Grace, the timing for arrival is being scheduled just after the passing of Grace,” Riley said.
According to Riley, Haitian officials are still able to acquire certain supplies so the need would be to provide cash donations instead. Details, she said, will be given at a later date as discussions are still ongoing.
She admitted that this has been a challenging period for the regional body in balancing the Covid-19 pandemic along with the frequent disasters across the Caribbean.
“The reality is that we have had a number of events taking place back-to-back and, in fact, a number of them even happen in parallel.
“So, it has been quite a bit of making sure that we retain a higher-level view of all that is happening. We are trying to make the best decisions that we can based on information available on how to deploy the resources that we have in the region and, of course, those resources are limited and even more constrained as a result of what’s happening across the region with Covid-19. It has been a challenging time – that is just the reality,” she added.
According to Riley, the Covid spikes in the various countries sometimes limit the amount of support that can be given.
“In essence, it may limit our ability to be able to draw human resources from that country to support another. So, it’s been a very dynamic time for us,” she said.
She explains that the pandemic has also forced them to strategise how relief supplies are deployed but boasted that since that new protocol has been put in place, none of their CDEMA workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.
She revealed that the pandemic has, however, positively pushed the group to upgrade some of their programmes, like the Integrated Regional Logistics Hub in Barbados which helped in disseminating PPE gear and other Covid protective supplies to the 20 member states of CDEMA.
Nevertheless, the top CDEMA official is continuing to remind Caribbean residents “to remain vigilant and be prepared”.
The regional body joins a growing list of governments, agencies and celebrities who have pledged to assist the Caribbean country following last weekend’s natural disaster where at least 1,297 people are known to have died and an unknown number are still missing.
In fact, search and rescue teams have been arriving from the United States and Chile, with more on the way from Mexico. Cuban medical teams are already in Haiti where they are treating the injured citizens.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose father is from Haiti, said she would donate her earnings from next week’s Western & Southern Open to help finance relief efforts.
The earthquake compounds problems facing the impoverished nation, which is already reeling from a political crisis following the assassination of its president last month.