UN Secretary General to visit Caribbean after back-to-back hurricanes

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The United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres will Saturday visit three Caribbean nations which were affected by recent hurricanes.

“I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there,” Mr Guterres said during a press encounter in New York.

He noted that some of the most important speeches during the 72nd General Assembly came from the leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

Guterres pointed out that the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless and the Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front line of the war on climate change”.

Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record, he noted, adding that Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometres per hour for 37 hours – the longest on record at that intensity.

The UN Secretary General pointed out that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year, and these were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico.

“It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season,” Mr Guterres stated.

He said that to date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance; and much else.

The UN has launched appeals for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead.

“I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need, including those doing so through South-South cooperation.

“But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor.  I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come,” the Secretary General stated.

He said the United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

“We are strongly committed to helping small island states and, indeed, all countries to adapt to inevitable climate impacts, to increase the pace of recovery and to strengthen resilience overall.

“Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude. We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future.”

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