Patria-Kaye Aarons | Mother Nature will force CARICOM
According to some soothsayer and his interpretation of the Bible, the world was supposed to have ended last Saturday. So much for that. Me and my bills (step off, grammarians!) are still very much here.
If I'm gonna be honest, I'm not quite ready for Armageddon just yet. I still have some unfulfilled dreams that I'd like to get out of my system before I kick the bucket. Little things like have a baby, get married, weigh 150 pounds again. Them kinda deep desires.
The world may not have imploded on Saturday as was predicted, but I'm sure in every church last weekend, the sermon was still either, "Thank you, Father, for sparing Jamaica," with little or no realisation that following that line of argument suggests that God chose to smite our Caribbean neighbours instead of us. Suggests that Jamaican prayers some how carry more weight than Dominicans', or those of people from the Virgin Islands. I strongly doubt it.
The alternative pulpit topic on Sunday was probably about 'the signs' and 'end of days'. September has been downright apocalyptic. Record-breaking hurricanes and earthquakes, leaving in their wakes a trail of death and destruction like we have never seen. And by all indications, this quite likely will be the new normal. How will we as small Caribbean countries cope? How many times will we be able to pick up each other (and inevitably ourselves)?
In 2007, regional nation states came together and subscribed to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF). In short, it is a collective regional government insurance policy against natural disasters. Knowing the dangers we face annually from wind and rain and occasionally from earthquakes, CCRIF helps countries to pick up the pieces with well-needed cash in the aftermath of a tragedy. In the last 10 years, CCRIF has paid out just about US$120 million. Forty-two per cent of that was paid out this hurricane season alone.
Dominica, the most devastated Caribbean country in 2017, will get a payout of US$19 million in about a week from CCRIF. This barely scratches the surface of the damage caused by Maria. The small island will need much more to get back on its feet.
Dominica was already just recovering from devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erica in 2015. There are just under 73,000 people living in Dominica; a quarter of those are children. There are no amount of taxes that can be collected from Dominica's adult population that can rebuild a nation. They need help.
Tangible help needed
And not just prayers. Real, tangible help from their Caribbean neighbours.
Whether or not you believe in Father God, there is no questioning the reality of Mother Nature and her venom. Hurricanes are the kind of recurring plague that we would be foolish to believe we can just pray away. The battle between both parental figures perpetually shows Mother Nature as the victor, (and I say 'battle' because accepting that perhaps Father God created the hurricanes would just mash up whatever little faith I had left).
Hurricanes, for me, stand as one of the biggest reasons CARICOM has to work. After a hurricane, neighbouring states will have to share resources to rebuild affected islands. We may as well all add it as a budget line item, because every year, the spend will be necessary.
Displaced Caribbean nationals will need to live and work in a country of refuge until they can be repatriated home. Today, most Dominicans don't have roofs and many don't have homes.The moment devastation hit Dominica, heads of government in both Trinidad and Guyana said, "We have room in our inn for you."
Expertise in construction, and security and economic development and entrepreneurship and health will now need to be deployed in Dominica and help them rebuild. The same was true after Haiti's earthquake in 2010 and after Montserrat's volcanic explosion in 1997.
It's the way the Caribbean will have to work to survive. At some point, at many points, all of us will have to abandon our selfish sovereignty and lean on our Caribbean neighbours.
Although the outstretched helping hand is being extended from Jamaica this time around, our time is coming. 'Today fi yu, tomorrow fi me.' CARICOM must work.