The Caribbean aid response to the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas is a lesson in regional integration that CARICOM Ambassador David Comissiong hopes won’t be in vain for citizens and leaders who have not yet fully grasped the need for “seamless unity” among member states.
During Sunday’s Rise Again Bahamas national mediathon, the ambassador declared the Northern CARICOM nation’s greatest hurricane response has come from its neighbours to the south.
Comissiong said: “A tragedy like Dorian really brings home why we need CARICOM. Clearly, no single Caribbean country can deal with this type of devastation alone, so we are really fortunate that in 2017, Antigua and Dominica had CARICOM and in 2019, the Bahamas has CARICOM.”
But he warned: “In 2020, it could be any of us and we must recognise that we are much better together and together we have collective security. When tragedy falls, we can all rally around and help that country to come back out and this is what this is about.”
On the region’s response to hurricane Dorian, he pointed out that the Bahamas’ biggest financial assistance so far has come from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF).
He said: “We came together in 2007 as Caribbean countries and said we have to put an insurance facility in place so that if a tragedy like this happens, we can get these immediate payments and the CCRIF has announced that immediately the Bahamas is going to receive a payment of US$10.9 million.
“In fact, they’ve already received 50 per cent of that and they’re going to receive the other 50 per cent in another week or so.
“Now we know that is not enough, but the point is that that insurance payment is a testimony to the effectiveness of CARICOM coming together.”
He added: “Who is in the Bahamas right now dealing with this disaster? CDEMA – the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and with them is CARPHA, the Caribbean Public Health Agency and do you know who is going to give them a lot of funding? The Caribbean Development Bank. And you know who is going to provide a lot of psychosocial counseling? The University of the West Indies, and we can go on and on.
“These are all CARICOM institutions. We actually have 25 CARICOM institutions or associate institutions doing tremendous work on behalf of our people. Unfortunately, perhaps they do not blow their trumpet loudly enough.”
As he made an impassioned plea for all CARICOM citizens to embrace their Bahamian “brothers and sisters”, he called for the development of a deeper sense of “oneness”.
He said: “Let us recognise that we have entered a new phase in our history. Climate change is real; global warming is real.
“These weather systems are becoming more and more devastating. If we wanted a wake-up call, this is one.
“All of us are on the firing line. So brothers and sisters, today it’s the Bahamas and tomorrow it is one of us.
“Let us build this notion of seamless unity. Bob Marley spoke of ‘collective security for surety’. Let us demonstrate that we have turned the corner and we have now developed an ethic of unity and coming together.
“If tragedy befalls any one of us, we are not leaving you by yourself to struggle. Your problems are our problems and we ought to demonstrate this with the Bahamas so that we set a precedent going forward because we know that that precedent of helping each other is going to become more and more important as we grapple with these negative effects of global warming.”