Natural Disasters Adversely Affect the Socio-Economic Development of Countries, Say Disaster Management Officials

Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 03, 2019 (SKNIS): Socio-economic development throughout St. Kitts and Nevis and the Caribbean region on a whole is frequently interrupted by the impact of natural disasters such as hurricanes, which can negatively impact both developed and developing countries, resulting in an increase in major challenges according to officials involved in disaster preparedness in the Federation.

Appearing on Wednesday’s (May 03) edition of “Working for You” Abdias Samuel, National Disaster Coordinator at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said from a social standpoint a natural disaster can have a lasting negative effect on humans.

“Storms can bring a psycho-social impact on the country whereby a person who loses everything can go through that dramatic experience, [resulting in them] being mentally challenged going forward. When they hear any little wind… that in itself poses a strong challenge of post-traumatic stress for persons,” said NEMA’s director.

He added that these negative effects can disrupt a person’s way of living.

“Other social aspects of things are the disruption to the normal way of life. For example, our schools can be disrupted,” he said, referring to the extensive damages Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought to the island of Dominica in 2017. Countries such as Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were able to accommodate several students from Dominica for them to be able to continue their CXC programmes.

In addition to disruption, Mr. Samuel noted that the tourism sector is the largest foreign income earner in St. Kitts and Nevis and that a severe impact on the sector can cause many persons to lose employment.

Elmo Burke, Senior Meteorology Officer, touched briefly on the agriculture sector, particularly food security. He recalled the damages to crops and livestock in the region during the 2017 Hurricane Season. He also mentioned damages in the United States (U.S.), a major import market to the Caribbean region.

“When you look at the market from the U.S. persons never factored that in, so because Florida was impacted… there was a trickle-down effect. It took us a longer time to recover in terms of food security,” he said. “So those are things that we as a nation and a region have to factor in in terms of our planning in order to ensure that we have adequate and alternate supply of food because if your major source is disrupted what is the alternate?”

Brian Dyer, Director of Nevis Disaster Management Department (NDMD), made mention of health issues with regards to the social impact after a disaster.

“You have persons moving into your country and they may not be screened properly so you have additional diseases entering,” said Mr. Dyer. “There is also the criminal element entering as well because persons are forced to migrate from an impacted area. We don’t say we can’t help because of ‘X’, we accept everyone. And then now for them to settle in your country there is a strain on your resources, so it goes both ways. Yes, we can help but each country has to bear some impact because there is a cost to everything.”

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