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UN chief lauds Dominica's vision to become first climate-resilient nation after recent devastation

8 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Dominica on Sunday, taking stock of the immense damage caused by Hurricane Maria last month and the relief efforts underway, as well as paying tribute to its leaders for their vision to not only rebuild but to become the world's first climate-resilient nation.

The category-5 storm made landfall on 18 September, thrashing the country with extreme winds and rain. It left people without electricity and water, destroyed homes and health clinics and isolated communities on the mountainous island. The UN and its partners recently launched an appeal for $31.1 million to reach over 90 per cent of Dominicans – some 65,000 people – in the next three months.

“I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf on any tree,” said Mr. Guterres, who flew by helicopter over some of the most affected areas. “In every community, most of the buildings are destroyed or heavily damaged.”

Speaking at a joint press conference (transcript below) with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in the capital, Roseau, Mr. Guterres echoed concerns similar to those expressed yesterday during a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, where he witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and met with displaced persons.

“One is to make sure the international community fully recognizes that the intensity of hurricanes and multiplication of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

Read the full story by UN News:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57835#.Wdt37DOZMhs
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UN Secretary-General to visit storm-ravaged islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica this weekend

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced today that he will be visiting hurricane hit islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica this weekend to survey the damage caused by multiple storms and what more the UN can do help people recover.

Speaking to journalists at a press stakeout at UN Headquarters, in New York, Guterres recognized that some of the most important speeches during the general debate of the General Assembly came from the leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes. He recalled the how 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”.

Mr. Guterres said he was struck by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries, who said "we urgently need support today" but even in the wake of utter devastation, urged the world to act for tomorrow.

The Secretary-General highlighted the growing impact of climate change and said that over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters nearly tripled, causing great economic losses.

The Secretary-General said “we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world.”

Scientists, he said “are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather” and are concluding that “a warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean.”

Guterres said “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, and sustainable energy future” and urged countries “to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.”

The Secretary-General said it was “very important to allow Dominica to have access to innovative forms of finance in concessional conditions,” as “it's very difficult for these countries to rebuild just by having access to normal capital markets.”

He also called for donor support that is “linked both to the humanitarian response and to the plans that, that based on the assessment will be made by the Government, in order to make Dominica an even more resilient country in relation to future storms of this nature.”

Quoting his Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg, Guterres said he believes “the US commitments to Paris will be met independently of the government decisions by the efforts that he is witnessing in the US economy, in the US society.”


Following are the initial remarks by the Secretary/General at the press encounter. A full transcript can be found at the bottom of the page. 


THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
--
PRESS ENCOUNTER
New York, 4 October 2017

 
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for your presence and it is indeed good to see you again.
 
As you know, we are coming off a jam-packed High-level week and opening of the General Assembly.
 
Some of the most important speeches during that period came from the leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless.

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”.

Today 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.

When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries.

Yes, they said, we urgently need support today.  

But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.
 
As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change.
 
But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world.

I would like to share some relevant data about what we are seeing.

First, some facts about this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record.

Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometres per hour for 37 hours -- the longest on record at that intensity.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year.

And, of course, they 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.

Second, some facts about the changes in major climate systems.

Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870.

Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled.

Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather.

Climate change is warming the seas.  This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere.  When storms come, they bring more rain.

A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes.  Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean.

The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges.  With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.

Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes.  This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected.

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.

We have 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 United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

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.

Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.

That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know.

But today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action.

Thank you very much.
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‘To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived’ says Prime Minister of storm-hit Dominica

Pleading with all countries in the United Nations General Assembly – large and small, rich and poor – to come together to save our planet, the Prime Minister of Dominica, where the landscape, ravaged by back-to-back hurricanes “resembles a warzone,” said his and other islands in the Caribbean need help now to build their homelands back better.

“I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change,” Roosevelt Skerrit said in an emotional address to the General Assembly’s annual general debate. He said he made the difficult journey from his storm-battered country “because these are the moments for which the United Nations exists!”

Mr. Skerrit said that warmer air and sea temperatures have permanently altered the climate between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Heat is the fuel that takes ordinary storms – “storms we could normally master in our sleep – and supercharges them into a devastating force.

The most unfortunate reality, he said, is that there is little time left to reverse damages and rectify this trajectory. “We need action and we need it now,” he said.

“The stars have fallen, Eden is broken. The nation of Dominica has come to declare an international humanitarian emergency.”

He concluded by urging ownership and responsibility for perpetuating harm that desperately begs attention: “Let it spark a thousand points of light, not shame.”


Full story: http://bit.ly/2htfD1R
Video of full statement: http://bit.ly/2jZQSPi

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Critical Health Response Ongoing due to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in the Caribbean

Washington, D.C., September 19, 2017 (PAHO/WHO)— Countries in the Caribbean continue implementing critical health response actions with support from the Pan American Health Organization, which is deploying Regional Response Teams and shipping medical and humanitarian supplies to islands affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Heavy rain and wind continue to hit the Leeward Islands, including those already affected by Hurricane Irma.

Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica Monday night as a Category 5 hurricane with 155-mph winds, causing heavy devastation. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in a social media post that “The winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured” on Dominica.

Priority needs include urgent repair and operational recovery of damaged health facilities in order to resume critical health services in the aftermath of the two category 5 hurricanes that impacted the Caribbean in less than 2 weeks. These services are badly needed particularly to manage emergency patients, to allow for quick diagnosis and treatment of communicable diseases, and to reestablish treatment of chronic and non-communicable diseases, said Ciro Ugarte, Director of the Health Emergency Department.

Hurricane Maria “could greatly impact already battered structures and debris, complicate humanitarian aid delivery, and displace more people to shelters. A quick delivery of needed supplies and human resources as well as prepositioning and preparation for the coming storm will be important to avoid further public health impact in the countries and territories located in the path of this powerful hurricane,” Ugarte said.

The deployment of Regional Response Teams to the islands includes health disaster coordinators, sanitary and health facilities engineers and epidemiologists, as well as experts in public health, information management, logistics, vector control, and damage and needs assessment.

Maintaining sanitary conditions, especially in shelters, continues to be a priority. Increases in mosquitoes and rodents have been reported in heavily impacted islands. Vector control and cleaning supplies needs list has been requested from affected islands.

Intensified epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks is crucial due to lack of access to clean water, healthcare and treatment, and increase in vectors, Ugarte said. Some shelters are already reporting diarrheal and skin diseases.

Healthcare professionals are being deployed from different islands to support the needed surge in human resources. Strengthening capacity in addressing mental health in impacted populations, especially those in shelters, is important, he added.

Logistics needs include restoration of the vaccine cold chain and increased space and safety for storage of medicines and health supplies. Security issues remain a challenge in the islands in order to distribute basic supplies and deploy personnel. A quick delivery of needed supplies and human resources is important due to Hurricane Maria and other potential storms developing in the Atlantic, Ugarte added.

Requested supplies are being provided by PAHO HQ and country offices in Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. As the needed medical and humanitarian supplies are identified by countries and shared with PAHO, they are being prepositioned in Panama and Barbados for rapid distribution in response to Hurricane Maria.

PAHO continues to assess needs of impacted countries and territories and deploy funds, supplies and human resources as needs are identified by impacted islands. As new information emerges from the field, new possible deployments may be considered by health authorities, especially after the passage of Hurricane Maria. A second round of deployments is being organized.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is coordinating emergency projects to cover medical supplies, reestablish health services, and purchase of essential medicines and medical equipment. The United Nations (UN) is developing a joint UN Response Strategy that lays out the priorities of international humanitarian agencies (UN and NGOs and IFRC), working closely with national Governments and regional counterparts including the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, CDEMA.

Source:  PAHO Emergencies www.paho.org/emergencies
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