OECS prepares for severe dry season
The nine-nation Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is hosting a four-day national training workshop titled The Development of National Drought Management Policies and National Drought Early Warning Information Systems as the countries preparing for what scientists could be a severe dry season,
The exercise is part of a regional activity that entails three national workshops. The first, currently being held in St Lucia, will end on Friday.
Subsequent workshops will be held in Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis in February and March.
Head of the OECS Commis-sion Dr Didicus Jules explained that droughts are a naturally occurring hazard that can be described as slow onset, creeping phenomena that have widespread effects.
"Increasingly, frequent and extreme droughts are becoming a feature of Caribbean weather, notwithstanding greater periods of heavier precipitation.
"The impact of such drought conditions will increase heat stress, particularly for the more vulnerable such as the elderly and will worsen sanitation conditions from reduced water supplies," he noted.
Jules said too much water, or too little, can be devastating to the health of populations and provide favourable conditions for the spread of water or vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika, cholera, leptospirosis, and others.
He said that under normal conditions, public-health systems are hardly able to handle current situations and added that water was already in short supply in many islands that are drought-prone and rely heavily on rainwater from small catchments or limited freshwater sources.
"The Caribbean can account for seven of the world's top 36 water-stressed countries, all with the highest possible water-stress scores" according to the World Resources Institute.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis as water scarce with less than 1000m3 freshwater resources per capita, with Barbados being in the top 10.
"In light of this, development of policies, strategies, and plans to mitigate the impacts of drought, which scientists have suggested, will increasingly become critical in the Caribbean," Jules said.