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March 2013

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Jamaica Prepares for Disaster

Friday, March 15, 2013 @ 07:03 AM

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that ravaged the east coast of the United States in the latter part of 2012, the country of Jamaica has braced itself for any potential disaster through the creation of the Jamaican Diaspora Initiative for Disaster Resilience and Response.  This unique entity, confirmed by Prime Minister Portia Simpson early this year attempts to provide emergency response ahead of any disaster that may befall the island nation.

Jamaican Diaspora

Some of the members of the Jamaican Diaspora Initiative for Disaster Resilience and response include from left to right: Marc Kelley, Dr. Franklin McDonnell, Rt. Hon. John N. Turner, Consul General of Jamaica, Howard Shearer, Bishop Audley James

At the launch of the initiative, it was pointed out that global trends suggest that natural and man-made induced catastrophes are increasing in frequency and magnitude, impacting many nations whether developed, developing or less developed.

The implications are that more countries are facing extreme challenges recovering from these events. It also means that more countries are competing for aide to support recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The Haiti earthquake of 2010 for example exposed many of the challenges that are often experienced by less developed countries which depend heavily on external aide to recover after a catastrophe and frankly, where the logistical infrastructure does not and did not exist previously to ease the process of recovery from that earthquake.  Haiti is still struggling three years later, moreover, Haiti has not fully realized the pledged funding and a significant portion of the reconstruction work is yet to begin.

Jamaica has similar vulnerabilities to Haiti, given its location in the hurricane alley, its geography, its geology and its heavy dependence on coastal resources.  However, the government and its Diaspora have responded in advance.

The traditional approach has been for Diasporas to contribute primarily to emergency response or early recovery operations after they have occurred.

The situation in Jamaica post Hurrican Sandy, however, requires a novel approach for engagement of the Jamaican Diaspora and its partners to support national initiatives for Disaster Resilience and Response.   It was in this light that the Consulate General of Jamaica in Toronto  launched the Jamaican Diaspora Initiative for Disaster Resilience and Response  in late 2012 confirmed this year by its Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Hon. John Turner, has consented to be the Patron for this initiative.  Mr. Turner has strong linkages with Jamaica dating back 60 years and was and is close friends with many government and business officials in and from Jamaica.  Other patrons named are prominent Jamaican Canadians, and other Canadians including the deputy chief of police in Toronto, Deputy Crown Attorney for the province of Ontario and prominent business people in Canada.

The advisory group will meet soon to ratify a Board of Directors to carry out the work identified in the Diaspora Relief initaitive’s terms of reference.  This is the first such initiative to be announced for a Caribbean nation and other Caribbean countries are following suit.

- Marc Kealey

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