Sint Maarten authorities start new project with EU support



PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The “Technical Assistance for Disaster Response and Preparedness” project began on June 20, in coordination with the Sint Maarten authorities.

The overall objective of the EU-funded project is to support the Government of Sint Maarten in its vision to strengthen its institutional capacity to plan, monitor and coordinate post-disaster response and reconstruction.

One of the first activities of the project is a Disaster Risk Mapping in all districts. It will be done with the engagement and validation of community councils and other community-minded individuals. A team of experts with global experience in disaster management will use a participatory methodology to guide each community to analyze the hazards it faces, its vulnerabilities and capacities for effective Disaster Risk Management.

The information gathered by each community will be added to the national Geographic Information System to create an easily accessible Sint Maarten-wide mapping that can be used for disaster preparedness and response. Also, based on the results of the risk mapping, each community will develop an action plan to tackle the risks and strengthen its response capacities.

The project will also organize and train Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) to be ready to help their communities in the event of a disaster. These teams will be anchored in the national disaster response system and play a key role in protecting the people of Sint Maarten before and during disasters.

To support evacuation and mass care/distribution, an Evacuation Framework will be developed, and a mass care and distribution handbook with key information will be created. These will serve the people of Sint Maarten in the event of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other hazards.

Also, a community awareness communication strategy will be developed, with tools that deliver key messages for disaster risk reduction, prevention, preparedness and response in case of emergencies.

Kick off meetings

The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor of Sint Maarten, Omar Ottley, met with the technical team that will work on the project and said “This EU project is very important for the people of Sint Maarten. We need to be fully prepared”.

The team for this project will work closely with the ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, especially with the Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs. The team is also coordinating with PAHO, the organization that is building new shelters to protect the most vulnerable when disaster strikes.

The technical team is comprised of five key experts in Disaster Preparedness and Response, Community Emergency Response, GIS Mapping, Evacuations and mass care & distribution and a Communication Specialist. It is contracted by SOFRECO, a European consulting firm.

The team leader, Marilise Turnbull, said “This EU-funded project builds on lessons learned with Hurricanes Irma and Louis. It will help prevent Sint Maarten from experiencing more losses, damage and suffering.”

The community preparedness expert, Ignacio Cristóbal, commented, “All districts of Sint Maarten are invited to participate in this project. Please come along to the meetings in your community and find out how you can benefit. Disaster preparedness is everyone’s business!”

The first actions of the project have started. In the next few days, calls will be made to community councils to arrange meetings and training.

All objectives of this project will promote a rights-based and participatory approach, gender equality and inclusion of persons with disability.