#Caribbean – April 22, 2020 — Social protection systems are coming under considerable pressure with the implementation of mitigation strategies to control the spread of COVID-19 in the Caribbean. Efforts to mitigate the negative effect of the pandemic on the well-being of those most at risk are now underway across the Caribbean. Attention is being given in particular to those most economically vulnerable, notably women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and migrant populations.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), as part of its outreach under the auspices of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, convened a virtual meeting on 21 April 2020 to offer countries an opportunity to share information on the actions being taken to meet this challenge, and on potential areas for collaboration and support. Representatives of Caribbean regional organizations and UN Resident Coordinators of the subregion attended as well as heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes.
Addressing the ministers of Social Development of the Caribbean, ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, underscored that “in urgent circumstances such as those we now face, it is you, the leaders responsible for social welfare, who are charged with finding solutions to the needs of those living on the street, persons with disabilities, migrants, and senior citizens”.
The meeting recognized that the crisis will affect several social sectors, including health, labour and education, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable people with underlying health conditions, older people, unemployed youth, underemployed, women, unprotected workers and migrant workers.
In the Caribbean, medical and health facilities are insufficient for the level of potential demand and are heavily dependent on imports of equipment and inputs. This is a major problem because, to date, 24 countries around the world have restricted exports of medical equipment, medicines or their ingredients.
It is expected that COVID-19 will affect the job market by increasing unemployment and underemployment, and impact the quality of work, by reducing wages and access to social protection for the most vulnerable groups, such as informal sector workers. The loss of labour income will translate into lower consumption of goods and services, and could drive many workers into poverty.
The novel coronavirus will also disrupt activities in educational establishments, and will have a significant impact on learning, especially for children in rural areas in light of existing disparities in access to digital devices and broadband Internet. More generally, the limited access to ICT implies a low level of readiness in the subregion to operate in a virtual environment in the current crisis.
High dependency on food imports creates additional challenges in terms of food security; challenges that are further aggravated by the specific vulnerability of the Caribbean to climate-related natural disasters. Moreover, the looming 2020 hurricane season, which starts in less than three months, places the subregion and its people at greater risk, even as it grapples with the impacts of the pandemic.
In this context, it was considered urgent that policies be fully coordinated to address the health crisis, which has brought grave socio-economic impacts. ECLAC called for regional coordination and cooperation in the face of the pandemic, taking into account the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development (RAISD) agreed by the member countries of the Conference in Mexico City, in October 2019.
The meeting, which was held online, was attended by ministers and senior decision makers from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.
Following an introduction and presentation of the social and economic situation of the region by ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, each country representatives had the opportunity to briefly present the actions being taken by their respective governments.
Storm Troubles as September heats up late
By Sherrica Thompson
September 27, 2022 – Hurricane Ian moved near the Cayman Islands and was forecast to intensify rapidly and hit Cuba as a major hurricane late on Monday and then strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before striking the west central coast of Florida on Wednesday.
Now millions in Tampa Bay, Florida are bracing for impact after a hundred year absence of any major storm.
So far, authorities in Cuba have suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and planned evacuations on Monday as Ian gained strength and approach Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. Cuba was also shutting down its train system ahead of the worst weather.
Senior Specialist at the United States National Hurricane Center Daniel Brown told The Associated Press early Monday that “Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane force winds, life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.”
In the Cayman Islands, members of the government and opposition were working together to ensure that people were made as safe as possible and provided with supplies, plywood, and in some cases sandbags so that they could safely weather the storm, according to Premier Wayne Panton in a video on Sunday.
As of Monday, September 26, most of the customers on the island of Bermuda have received power with just about 200 properties still without electricity.
Last week Hurricane Fiona brought heavy rain and strong winds to the island causing about 29,000 customers, more than 80 per cent of the island’s sole power provider, Bermuda Electric Light Company to be without electricity on Friday morning.
The island has also started its restoration process and announced that it has reopened for business.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, more than a million people in the two countries are still without power and running water after the passing of Hurricane Fiona over the Islands last week.
A growing number of businesses in Puerto Rico, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across the territory as the outages drag on, sparking concern about the availability of fuel and basic goods.
As of Saturday, at least 16 people had died because of Hurricane Fiona, according to Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, which is tracking hurricane-related deaths on the island.
Utility, Telecoms Companies Prepared for Peak of Atlantic Hurricane Season
#Kingston, Jamaica, September 27, 2022 – As activity in the tropical Atlantic intensifies, the island’s major utility companies have indicated their preparedness for severe weather conditions.
Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Senior Manager, George Kates, said that the company has invested heavily in its disaster-preparedness plans, which were continually developed using many years of lessons. He said that critical staff and third-party contractors are mobilised and emergency operation centres throughout the island are ready to be activated, when needed.
Additionally, he indicated that in disaster, the JPS maintains contact with the security forces and the National Works Agency (NWA), “because we can recover as fast as they allow us because they have to be ahead of us to clear roads and make way for our team to move”.
“I can comfortably say that the JPS is in an advanced stage of readiness. We are ready to respond to any eventualities,” Mr. Kates assured.
He was addressing a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).
During the meeting, which was convened by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, key private and public-sector entities outlined their state-of-readiness for Tropical Depression Nine, which strengthened into Tropical Storm Ian.
While the country was spared the worst effects of the system, it has since developed into a major hurricane and is expected to impact Cuba and Florida.
National Water Commission (NWC) Chairman, Mark Barnett, in noting the entity’s readiness, said that measures have been put in place to prepare for adverse weather conditions. He noted that key townships across the island have been equipped with standby generators and that all NWC facilities in deep rural or urban areas will continue to operate “as long as it is safe to do so”.
He pointed out, however, that where the weather becomes severe, some facilities may experience disruptions or may be forced to shut down, especially those that rely heavily on reasonable quality water flow from rivers.
“We are making strides to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure and necessary capacity in place for responsiveness, knowing very well that we are a [small] island state and we are subject to these events,” Mr. Barnett said.
“All in all, we feel pretty comfortable in terms of our preparedness,” he noted.
As it relates to telecommunications, the island’s two main providers also told the committee meeting that they are ready to face a disaster if one strikes.
FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlined that the company has put 12 disaster plans in place, which allows for response to situations in a timely manner. She said that using lessons from the past, FLOW has actively trained its coordinators to respond to certain protocols and has identified key personnel in each parish, with the regional crisis management team also on standby if the local team requires assistance.
“We have tested our satellite phones that we have in stock and we’re also happy to say that we are supporting the national disaster programme. We have contributed to vests, we have sourced signs, and we [have helped to] ensure that shelter management programmes are up and running,” Mrs. Brown Plunkett noted.
Some of the challenges experienced by the company that may affect its disaster response include the theft of infrastructure, which includes batteries and copper wires, and damage outside the plant network caused by motor-vehicle accidents.
To mitigate these, the company has activated monitoring and tracking on its devices, sensitised communities to monitor any irregularities, and has undertaken routine assessments. There’s also an environmental management programme in place to manage hazardous waste, said Mrs. Brown Plunkett. Furthermore, the company’s corporate communications team actively monitors and sends out alerts to the public, in the event of a weather system.
“That includes our technical team that ensures that our sites are ready, that our facilities are topped up with fuel, that we have double-checked batteries to ensure complete reliance, that we have coordinated with our partners to make sure that they, too, are ready, that we establish lines of communication around the emergency messages,” Mr. Parkinson said.
He noted that the company had assured its business customers of the lines of communication and the strategies it will be undertaking, to maintain business continuity.
Additionally, the company had activated its social media pages to be used as a ‘community hub’ for information and to convey updates from the Government.
“As we do, we are supporting the overall government of Jamaica’s command and control communication efforts, and those efforts are going to be critical to getting Jamaica back on its feet again [in the event of severe weather],” he said.
The Atlantic Hurricane season runs annually from June 1 to November 30. Mid-August to about mid-October is considered to be the peak of the season when, statistically, the tropical Atlantic becomes the most active, and experiences the most dangerous storms.
Contact: Mickella Anderson
Donald De La Haye photos
1st insert: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry’s office in Kingston on Friday (September 23).
2nd insert: National Water Commission (NWC), Chairman, Mark Barnett, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).
3rd insert: FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlines the company’s disaster preparation plans during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council on Friday (September 23) at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston.
4th insert: Digicel’s Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, discusses the company’s disaster preparation strategies during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development’s Hagley Park Road headquarters on Friday (September 23).
New Firearms Act Passed in The Senate
#Kingston, Jamaica, September 27, 2022 – The Senate on Friday (September 23) passed the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act with 17 amendments.
The legislation establishes a dual regime, distinguishing between prohibited weapons or unregulated firearms and activities connected thereto, and firearms that are duly authorised or registered.
The Bill also outlines the objectives that speak to establishing a framework that prohibits firearms and ammunition that are illicitly traded, and which regards possession of those prohibited firearms and ammunition as the foundation on which other heinous and violent crimes are committed.
Closing the debate, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Matthew Samuda said the Bill will issue punishment, in proportionate to the crime.
“For those that have been caught the penalty did not match the crime and this Bill deals with that issue,” he said.
He also noted that the legislation, and its amendments address the strengthening of the operational issues such as those made to clause 101 which speaks to trial, punishment, proof, and records.
In addition, under the new legislation, the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) will be established as a body corporate.
As a body corporate, the Authority will have its own legal identity and will now be empowered to perform several activities, to include entering into contracts in its own name, initiating and responding to legal claims, acquiring real and personal property, and using its own official seal.
The legislation will go back to the House of Representatives for its approval.
Contact: Rochelle Williams
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