by Melisse Ogilvie
As we enter the hurricane season, we face yet another threat to our existence; our homes, our livelihood.
In the past, our people and country have been able to bounce back from natural disasters, with the most memorable being hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Those who experienced Hurricane Ivan can still give vivid accounts of the mass devastation to their personal property and the island. Although, we have no control over when and how a hurricane causes environmental devastation, we can still endeavour to prepare ourselves for the likelihood of such a hazard. As we approach yet another hurricane season, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, how do we even prepare for any other disaster in a time like this?
In addition to preparing our homes and environment, we must seek to build personal and community resilience to enhance our recovery from any natural disaster. If we focus on individual resilience, we are focusing on the ability of a person to cope and adapt following an event, therefore, minimising the adverse effects, such as depression and anxiety. At the community level, resilience refers to the community’s ability to prevent, respond to and recover from the consequences of the disaster.
In a time like this, we must have yet another discussion on people and their emotional and physical wellbeing. This discussion has to be around building and sustaining the resilience in all Grenadians, but primarily those who are most vulnerable. Children, people who have mental illness, people who are differently abled, the elderly and those who live in poverty and are socially excluded, are most vulnerable, and, therefore, will have a reduced resilience as a result of this vulnerability. With this pandemic, we will have more people who fit into this category. The solution should be the activation of a framework for agency collaboration, integration and coordination of services to these vulnerable people.
In addition, we need to determine the strengths and resourcefulness of these persons and the communities in which they belong. We have to recognise the skills of the communities and the community’s ability to mobilise, network and support its members, as this will assist in the community’s recovery from any disaster.
This is a time for all people to come together, starting with agencies, so that an effective disaster preparedness and recovery plan is put in place at the community level. We do not have to wait for government or non-governmental agencies to start the dialogue and put these plans in place. Community leaders are more than capable and should take up that responsibility to start the process. It has been found that communities that are cohesive are better able to promote adaptation to the event. Alternatively, conflict and fragmentation within a community can hinder disaster recovery.
In this trying time, let the words of our national anthem resonate, “may we with faith and courage, aspire, build, advance, as one people, one family…”
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