The Virgin Islands is poised to receive support from a programme for resilience building following a formal agreement between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the European Union (EU).
PAHO will provide technical oversight for the implementation of a project aimed at improving national emergency response and increasing community preparedness.
The project, valued at 2 million Euros will focus on the rehabilitation of selected emergency shelters, the provision of emergency relief supplies for these shelters, training for the public and private sector in resilient, safe and green (Smart) building strategies and standards and training in shelter management inclusive of psychosocial care.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office, Mrs. Elvia Smith-Maduro said the funding arrangements were finalised through the signing of the financing agreement during the 17th OCTA Ministerial Conference held in Tahiti, French Polynesia on February 26, 2019.
Mrs. Smith-Maduro said, “Discussions have been ongoing with the EU in this regard since early 2018 following the devastating impacts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The EU has expressed a keen interest in supporting the upgrade of emergency shelters with the Smart standards and techniques used by the Pan American Health Organization. It is expected that their support will come in the form of detailed inspections, retrofitting of critical components of the structures with an emphasis on water and energy conservation and ensuring that the buildings are able to function during times of emergencies or disaster.”
PAHO has already been in contact with the Premier’s Office to engage the relevant agencies and departments and to commence discussions on an implementation plan for the project.
Mrs. Smith-Maduro further said the organisation has assigned resources to commence the process and has begun to formulate a plan of activities with identified costs.
She added, “They will work closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Department of Disaster Management to obtain the necessary information to complete the initial assessments. It is expected that at least 10 emergency shelters will be upgraded and additional funding available through the Ministry of Health and Social Development to complete emergency repairs to these facilities will complement the pot of funds available to allow the emergency shelters to meet the international standards.”
The project is said to be timely as the Government has recently presented a Readiness Plan for 2019 to the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) in which one of the priority areas focused on repairs to emergency shelters. The training to be offered by PAHO will not only support the work of the project but will be used to inform the rebuilding process and to support the integration of standards that have been tested and are being promoted as a blueprint for achieving resiliency in critical infrastructure.
The project is expected to be carried out over a period of two years from 2019 to 2021.