Caricom pledges support for Caribbean Sandy victims

Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque has pledged the commitment of the Community to provide support to Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

According to a press release from the Caricom Secretariat the hurricane barrelled through the Caribbean on its way to the US, leaving a path of death and damage estimated at billions of dollars in its wake.

In messages to the respective governments, LaRocque extended his sympathies and noted with distress the tragic loss of life and extensive damage wrought to key sectors such as agriculture and tourism, in those countries.

To the Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller, the Secretary-General noted with deep concern, reports from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries that indicated significant damage to the country’s agricultural infrastructure as well as loss of crops and livestock.

“The Community,” he said, “acknowledges that the effects of Hurricane Sandy [are] long term with serious implications … as tourism and agriculture are at the centre of economic activities in the affected areas of St Mary, Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, St Catherine and St Andrew.”

According to the Secretary-General “this latest bout of devastation is also particularly disheartening” because it would definitely affect Jamaica’s efforts to address the economic challenges brought about by the global and financial meltdown.

Notwithstanding these challenges however, the Secretary-General expressed confidence that the courage and resilience of the Jamaican people would fortify them as they continue to rebuild.

Haiti took the brunt of Sandy, which left more than 50 dead in its wake, the release said. Those most affected areas included those in tent cities and those in the Ouest, Sud, Grande-Anse, Nippes, Sud-est, Artibonite and Gantier.

In his message to Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, the Secretary-General said the Community was acutely aware that in the past two years, Haiti had suffered more than its share of natural disasters, and that Sandy’s passage would impact the progress already made after the earthquake of January 2010. LaRocque was confident, however, that the indomitable spirit and courage of the Haitian people would strengthen their resolve to overcome.

“The Caribbean Community stands ready to provide support to the People and Government of Haiti as the process of recovery continues despite this latest setback, strong in the assurance that Haiti will move forward, pressing onward to its highest development aspirations as families, communities and as a nation,” the Secretary-General concluded

Cuba was not spared the wrath of Sandy, leaving a vaulting death toll and significant damage to the tourism and agricultural industries. The Secretary-General, in his message to President Raúl Castro, said, “Tragedies of this enormity only serve to accentuate the importance of our continued regional efforts to collaborate in critical areas of disaster mitigation and preparedness.”

LaRocque then gave his commitment to providing support where necessary to Cuba, noting that the road toward reconstruction and redevelopment would require united efforts, but he was confident that the spirit and resilience of the People of Cuba would enable them to overcome those challenging times.

Meanwhile, in signalling the Community’s solidarity with the US, the Secretary-General told the United States Embassy in Guyana that the Community watched with deep anxiety, the manner in which the hurricane mutated into a catastrophic super storm affecting millions, including members of the large Caribbean Diaspora.

Even while lamenting the fatalities and the considerable damage to property and infrastructure, LaRocque said he was confident that the resilience and “can-do” attitude of the American people, and members of the Caribbean Diaspora, would make it possible for a quick and full recovery.