(CARICOM Secretariat Guyana) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) moved its assistance to its earthquake devastated Member State, Haiti to another level with the deployment of a Tactical Mission to that country on Sunday, 17 January.
On Wednesday, 13 January, less than 24 hours after the earthquake struck on 12 January, Jamaica had deployed medical personnel and security forces to Haiti as a first response. Jamaica is the sub-regional focal point in the area that includes Haiti, The Bahamas and the nearby Associate Members under the system established by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) the regional response mechanism to natural disasters.
A medical facility was quickly established by the Jamaican team, while arrangements have also been made to transport some of the injured to Jamaica for hospitalisation.
The Tactical Mission is seeking to determine the way forward in the provision of more health related services to Haiti and will provide up to date information as to the situation on the ground in Haiti and identify logistical arrangements which would facilitate the entry and accommodation of more personnel and supplies.
This crucial area of health was identified as the sector that would receive a targeted response by the Community following a meeting on Thursday evening involving CARICOM Chairman, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable David Thompson, the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Bruce Golding, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and His Excellency Edwin Carrington, Secretary-General of CARICOM. Prime Minister Golding had reported to his colleagues on meetings he had held in Haiti earlier that day with Haitian President His Excellency Rene Preval and Prime Minister the Honourable Jean-Max Bellerive.
CARICOM assistance in the area of health includes the provision of additional medical and support personnel as well as medical and emergency supplies and security for those engaged in the provision of the services. CDEMA, in this effort, continues to work closely with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Regional Security System (RSS) and the CARICOM Secretariat.
On Monday, 18 January President Preval and members of his cabinet, together with Prime Ministers, Skerritt, Thompson and Golding, the Rt Honourable Hubert Ingraham, Prime Minister of The Bahamas and Honourable Patrick Manning Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and the CARICOM Secretary-General, participated in a meeting in the Dominican Republic on the crisis arising out of the earthquake. The meeting, convened by Spain in its capacity as current President of the European Union and attended by other countries and international agencies, sought to identify and resolve problems of co-ordination of the aid and relief effort in Haiti.
CARICOM leaders expressed concern over the future of tens of thousands of children who had been made orphans by the tragedy and agreed that this problem needed to be addressed urgently.
All participants acknowledged the major logistical difficulties in the situation including the almost insurmountable challenge of reaching communities outside Port-au-Prince which had also been devastated by the earthquake, and recommended ways to tackle this issue. CARICOM’s role and rapid response to the crisis came in for praise at the meeting.