Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has stressed the need for coordination and swift action to support victims of Hurricane Irma.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, the Secretary-General said she has already been in touch with partners and agencies to help corral support for countries which have been devastated by the category 5 hurricane. Described as the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever, the storm has already killed at least 14 people, demolished most of Barbuda and is now pummelling Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas.
“The first thing we can do is galvanise support from right across the Commonwealth and highlight the issue. You’ll know that in the Caribbean there is CDEMA, which is the coordination mechanism that goes in as soon as hurricanes or disasters like this happen in order to coordinate and facilitate. We are also able to talk to our partners,” said the Secretary-General.
She later added, “We are contacting those agencies who have helped in the past and asking them if they can stand ready. So this whole issue of coordination is incredibly important.”
Secretary-General Scotland also highlighted the fact that two other storms, Katia and Jose, were queuing up to potentially add to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. “There are lots of countries,” she said, “who are just trembling at the idea that if the hurricane that is on its way goes from category three to five, they’ve got to be ready. So the next couple of days is really planning and planning.”
Listen to Secretary-General Scotland's interview on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
In response to a question about the impact of climate change, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of the Commonwealth’s regenerative development initiative. She said, “It’s incredible. People talk about the existential threat of climate change as if it is not real. This is real. If you look at what happened to Barbuda, having a hurricane wipe out everything on your island, that is the existential threat. And in the Commonwealth, as you know, we have been working really hard, in relation to how do we create a regenerative model of development so that we can really push back the climatic problems and difficulties that we are having.
“This is absolutely real. All of these issues that we’ve been really fighting for and working on, collaborating with all our small states – it’s for this and for days like this that all that work comes to the fore, and what we know is that partnership is critical.”
The Antigua and Barbuda High Commission in the UK has set up the ‘Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund’. A statement from High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hills said, “Our thoughts and prayers remain with all the people of the Caribbean and the southern United States. The High Commission will continue to monitor the current situation with Hurricane Irma and the expected arrival of Hurricane Jose.”
Read the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission's press release here.
To contribute to the fund:
Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund
Bank: Royal Bank of Scotland
Account Name: Ascension Trust (Charity #1127204)
Account No.: 10019655
Sort Code: 16-00-93
Reference: ‘Rebuild Barbuda Appeal Fund’