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Jackson: Airlift a concern for regional agency

Airlift remains the major headache for officials of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) responding to emergencies in the region.

Executive Director of CDEMA, Ronald Jackson, voiced this concern today while addressing members of the press at the Baobab Towers, Warrens, St Michael.

While noting that there are resources in different locations within the region, Jackson pointed out that access to adequate transportation remains a major concern for the regional agency.

The executive director said: “There are resources in different locations within the region as well as search capacity which we seek to access out of Panama and some other partners. However, you are looking at the scale of the event whether or not it is an international type incident or a regional incident which then calls on CDEMA to mobilise resources within the realm of the partners. The CDEMA agreement talks about regional co-ordination and the sharing of resources.

“The greater challenge for us is the logistics around moving these resources. We have been able to identify resources from time to time, but our challenge has always been the logistics to move them from point to point. We suffer from the same challenge that arises with air transport in a normal day. That is an area we are working on. We have some Memoranda of Understanding with air carriers; we have some memoranda of understanding with other companies, but again we have to look at other ways to strengthen this particular area, the logistics, the movement of supplies within the region,” Jackson added.

Responding to a query on CDEMA’s response to the flooding in St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia in December 2013, Jackson said a lot of resources were sent to the two countries from within the region. The supplies were mobilised by CDEMA.

Noting that Barbados acts as a sub-regional focal point, the executive director said Barbados played a part in co-ordinating the efforts, while Trinidad and Tobago also played a role.

“That is the spirit of the system, that is how we built it, that is how we exercise it and that is how we triggered the response,” the executive director said.

Jackson told members of the press that following the flooding in St Vincent and St Lucia CDEMA was able to mobilise resources from Guyana but once again airlift presented a major challenge.

Noting that Barbados’ Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, had expressed some concern at the failure of some participating countries to make their annual contributions to the regional body, Jackson disclosed since Brathwaite’s plea at the official opening of CDEMA’s headquarters at Lower Estate, St Michael, two countries had made their contributions well within the financial year.

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