Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, on Wednesday met in Washington, D.C. with the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee and representatives of major countries to discuss the devastating impact on Barbuda by the recent passage of Hurricane Irma.
Sanders made “emotive presentations to the representatives of both groups who were visibly moved by a video presentation of the destruction of Barbuda and the evacuation of all its residents to Antigua,” according an Antigua and Barbuda Government statement.
The Emergency Aid Committee included the Pan American Development Fund, the Inter-American Defence Board, the Pan American Health Organisation and the Inter-American Committee on Agriculture.
Major countries at the second meeting included Italy, Japan, Monaco, the European Union, the United States France, Spain and Switzerland, the statement said.
Sanders described the present situation in Barbuda as “uninhabitable,” including the possibility of disease resulting from dead animals and unclean water infiltration.
“It is very fortunate that Antigua had only relatively minor damage from Hurricane Irma and is now functioning normally, with the result that it could take in the inhabitants of Barbuda and provide for them on an immediate basis,” he said.
“But there is a natural desire by the Barbudan community to return to the island – something that is difficult until basic services can be restored,” he added, stressing that even these basic services “have a high cost that is beyond the resources of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda alone.”
Sir Ronald said that Antigua and Barbuda has a US$1 billion economy “but is facing a rebuilding cost of in excess of US$250 million,” according to the statement.
It said donor countries pointed out that, “in order for Barbuda to face up to future storms of this kind, it would have to be rebuilt differently and to higher standards that could resist hurricanes.”
In agreeing with this observation, the Antiguan envoy said: “This is precisely why the country requires international help.”
He said that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is already engaged about the need for a “careful and well documented plan for the rebuilding of Barbuda that is sustainable, viable and ‘bankable’ to attract the necessary funding.”
Many of the agencies, such as USAID and the Pan American Health Organisation, indicated that their emergency response teams are already sending in relief material to help cope with immediate needs, according to the statement.
Later, on Wednesday, Sanders made a presentation to US government officials and Congressional representatives at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., the statement said.
“It is vitally important to knock on every door, to speak to everyone, to spread knowledge,” Sanders said. “I am painfully aware that the devastation of Barbuda could become yesterday’s story to the international media. It is crucial to act now and at all levels.”
Meantime, the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda in Miami said on Wednesday that it is opening a warehouse in Miami for the receipt of hurricane relief items for Barbuda.
Consul General Gilbert Boustany said items needed include pampers, baby formula, wipes, personal hygiene items, canned foods, medical supplies, and rolling beds with mattresses.
“Once the rebuilding effort begins, the Government will then enter into a secondary phase of requests, whereby items such as building materials would be essential,” he said.