NASSAU, The Bahamas – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis has thrown the government’s support behind a Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation and Exchange, between the University of The Bahamas and the University of Hawaii.
The MOU was signed during a Disaster Risk Reduction Summit facilitated by The Disaster Reconstruction Authority, the National Emergency Management Agency, and the Pacific Disaster Centre of Hawaii on Thursday, October 13, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort. Signatories to the MOU were: Dr. Erik Rolland, President, University of The Bahamas, and Dr. John Barile, Director, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii.
The event coincided with ‘International Day for Disaster Reduction’ – October 13, which is set aside by the United Nations to encourage countries to take part in building more disaster resilient communities.
The MOU will facilitate, among other things, research and training for the development of professionals and highly skilled technicians in the area of disaster risk reduction.
Prime Minister Davis underscored the importance of the MOU, against the backdrop of The Bahamas having experienced major hurricanes over the past six years, namely: Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017, and Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“The partnership between University of The Bahamas and the University of Hawaii will allow us to undertake joint scientific research between our institutions to promote sustainable solutions to help our island states better adapt to the impending crisis we both face,” the prime minister said.
He added: “The Bahamas is proud to be at the frontier of this scientific approach with the University of Hawaii and Pacific Disaster Center. We aim for this work to benefit not only our island states, but also all nations around the globe.”
The prime minister stated that Hurricane Dorian put the country to the test when it had to face “that monstrous storm, and we suffered terribly. In our little island country, we say: When you know better—do better.”
He assured that the government of The Bahamas is staunchly committed to doing all it can to implement effective disaster prevention measures and is thankful to its partners at the PDC for their willingness and enthusiasm toward the same.
Bahamians, said the prime minister, know what is to live bracing for a possible catastrophe, annually.
“We know all too well the utter devastation a hurricane can bring to our shores,” he said as he recalled September 1, 2019 when the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian passed through Abaco and Grand Bahama and left massive destruction in its wake, and lives lost.
“Hurricane Dorian was, by all accounts, a freak hurricane—a product of an ever- warming planet. Global climate change is precipitating major shifts in weather patterns and setting the context for a world rife with unpredictable storm activity. It is us, low-lying island nations across the hurricane, tornado and typhoon belt of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans who are most vulnerable.”
The prime minister also recalled that on the heels of Hurricane Dorian was the COVID-19 pandemic – and that The Bahamas had two “trying years” of economic setback and social hardship.
And, as the United Nations General Assembly has declared October 13 the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, he said it is initiatives like this that are crucial to advancing the charge for a world where extreme loss and tragedy are tempered and mitigated by implementing innovative response strategies and early warning measures.
“We highlight the commitment and collective action of not only the Bahamian people, but of many countries worldwide in reducing devastation, loss of life, and economic setbacks resulting from disasters.
He thanked the PDC for its continued partnership with The Bahamas, through NEMA. And, presented Dr. Erin Hughey, Director/PDC, with a plaque of appreciation.
“We have also recently completed a National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment (NDPBA) in partnership with the PDC,” the prime minister said while explaining that the national baseline assessment provides a localized, detailed assessment of risk for each of the Family Islands.
“These efforts support our Blueprint for Change, which details aggressive actions to kickstart transformation in our economy and the way we recover and rebuild. We are especially concerned with securing a sustainable, dignified and resilient future for all,” the prime minister said.
Also present for the event were: the Hon. Myles LaRoda, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction; Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA; Alex Storr, Chairman, Disaster Reconstruction Authority; Permanent Secretary Carl Smith; Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Chairperson of the University of the Bahamas Board of Trustees, and Scott Kuykendall, PDC.