Impact of Hurricane Matthew a concern for Commonwealth
HURRICANE MATTHEW THREATENS to inflict further severe damage on island nations of the Caribbean as it continues its path of destruction, and there is now significant risk that it will cause widespread damage to property and severe disruption in The Bahamas.
Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie warned people to brace for a “worst case scenario” after thousands were displaced in Haiti in what was described as the worst humanitarian crisis to hit that country since the 2010 earthquake. Eleven people are reported to have died in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, while a teenage boy was earlier killed in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Expressing concern for the safety and welfare of citizens in Commonwealth member states in the region that have been affected by the recent extreme weather, or lie in the projected path of Hurricane Matthew, the Commonwealth secretary-general, Patricia Scotland, assured governments and communities that their urgent needs for support and assistance would be a priority consideration at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting which convenes in Washington DC later this week.
Climate finance is a priority item on the agenda at the meeting, and the Commonwealth is working closely with member states to build capacity and provide technical know-how that will assist them in accessing the substantial funds that have already been pledged by the global community.
Speaking from London before her departure for Washington DC, Scotland said: “As we hope and pray that the storm will pass without inflicting further severe damage, injury or loss of life, our response as a Commonwealth family of nations is of solidarity and renewed resolve to work together in order to limit the actions of humankind that exacerbate the causes of extreme weather, and to build economic resilience and stronger systems for support and recovery.”
Conscious of the immediate threat to lives and livelihoods in The Bahamas, the secretary-general spoke of her deep anxiety for the safety and welfare of all living in fear and apprehension as Hurricane Matthew moves closer, saying: “It is at times when extreme and immediate risk such as this looms that the fragility and vulnerability of our human communities is brought home to us all. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of The Bahamas, and with all in the Caribbean who are dealing with the threat or consequences of this truly devastating hurricane.”
Paying tribute to the emergency services and all who are engaged in disaster preparation or response the secretary-general expressed admiration for the bravery and humane spirit motivating all those working voluntarily or professionally to provide immediate assistance, aid and protection, or offering comfort and reassurance to those in distress.
She continued: “This shows just how vital our Commonwealth work on enabling small states to access the vital climate funds they need for resilience, mitigation and adaptation is, and that will be a central part of our discussions in Washington DC with Commonwealth finance ministers.
“Hurricane Matthew brings into stark relief the climate shocks our small states are particularly vulnerable to and it’s why we will continue to push for institutions such as the IMF and World Bank to recognise this through a vulnerability index. Countries can see their entire GDP wiped out in a matter of hours. That’s why we need to recognise the vulnerability our small states face.” (PR)