People of the Virgin Islands, I come to you today as part of my weekly schedule of updates to inform you of the latest developments in our relief and recovery efforts.
I want to first remind all that the Government of the Virgin Islands and I remain committed to the Territory’s short and long term recovery, however we are still dealing with immediate needs and as such a number of response activities are still taking place. These will continue until we have provided the basic needs to the affected communities.
With regards to recovery, we are already discussing what needs to be re-established now and what we need to do to build back in a more resilient way taking into consideration the vulnerabilities within our environment.
A task-force from the United Kingdom’s Aid and Foreign Departments was also in the Territory this week evaluating the areas for ongoing support as part of the recovery efforts.
We have solicited assistance from the United Kingdom, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and as the Premier announced yesterday, he is today participating in a World Bank round table discussion in Washington DC where he is presenting the BVI’s case for greater access to financial support to fund reconstruction.
The Premier has also announced the Cabinet’s approval of a Disaster Recovery Plan and the establishment of a Disaster Recovery Coordinating Committee (DRCC).
One of our immediate priorities is to help persons registered in shelters and others that have been displaced and need assistance for housing. This is being addressed through the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s Social Housing Programme which will provide further details.
The effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria have resulted in a number of houses losing roofs, as a quick temporary fix, tarpaulins have been received by a number of donors and these are being distributed. To date, over three thousand tarps have been given out to persons who have made requests since the impact from Irma. However, in some instances the high demand for these items has outweighed the available supply as stocks are being replenished.
We are very grateful for the assistance of the Charities who are working alongside the Department of Disaster Management/National Emergency Operations Centre and the Ministry of Health and Social Development to support the humanitarian response and the needs of schools and people affected.
This week I have visited Districts 4, 5 and 8. It has been truly inspiring and uplifting to continue to see the community spirit and how people are coming together. So many people are working really hard to restore services. I also observed first-hand the fantastic progress, the hard work and dedication of staff and community at a number of schools including the Francis Lettsome Primary School which I visited just today as effort was being made to have classes open there as soon as possible. I was also pleased to visit the Willard Wheatley primary school and see the happy children learning and guided by such dedicated teachers.
We continue to make progress with our relief and recovery efforts and I’m sure many like me, were pleased to see traffic lights operational in some areas and electrical poles being planted in large numbers. The infrastructure elements are being addressed as quickly as possible and I commend all the crews that are doing an amazing job restoring services and systems under very challenging conditions.
Finally, I would like to end by reminding everyone that we are still in a very active Atlantic Hurricane Season and we are also observing and experiencing an increase in tropical waves in the area which at times adversely affects our efforts. Unfortunately, many of the weather monitoring and alert networks locally and regionally were affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which also presents a challenge. I’m working with the team at the DDM/NEOC to identify resources to re-establish the monitoring networks, however in the meantime I am encouraging everyone to remain in a high state of readiness and to regularly check weather alerts. Please note we are expecting a tropical wave to start affecting us from Saturday.
May God continue to protect and bless us all in the Virgin Islands.
Thank you, stay strong and have a good weekend.
Listen to the audio version of the statement below: