Guyana joins growing list of Caribbean nations to use PDC science in fight against climate-driven natural disasters

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October 2, 2021

The impacts of climate change are being felt around the world, but few know the urgency of action more than Guyana.

Immersed in the recent impacts of record-breaking floods which destroyed crops, houses, and livestock throughout the country, Guyana’s officials moved forward with aggressive plans to mitigate future disaster risks by launching a National Disaster Preparedness Baseline Assessment (NDPBA). Launched on June 8, 2021 through a virtual workshop, the NDPBA will be conducted in partnership with the University of Hawai’i’s Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) and numerous national stakeholders—bringing new scientific data, tools, and technology to aid Guyana with increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters in the age of climate change.

“I am pleased to recognize the multi-stakeholder approach which extends its reach beyond representatives of government, to include representatives from civil society, the private sector, and NGOs who are critical partners in reducing disaster risk,” said Prime Minister, Retired Brigadier the Honourable Mark Phillips about the NDPBA during his opening remarks at the workshop. “It is my expectation that through this and future partnerships, disaster mitigation and preparedness will be strengthened, leading to enhanced response and recovery.”

Guyana joins other forward-leaning nations in the region like Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, and Jamaica in operationalizing use of PDC’s NDPBA science and DisasterAWARE technology—including more than 10 nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean who have engaged in NDPBA projects.

According to Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission Director-General Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig who helped kick-off the workshop, the Commission “has been working on building partnerships with agencies such as the Pacific Disaster Center which has the experience and capabilities to guide and support much needed intervention and modern solutions in disaster risk management.” He highlighted the timeliness of the assessment given the recent flooding in May of this year.

The workshop was hosted by the Civil Defence Commission and garnered participation from more than 40 agencies and organizations including representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, Red Cross, Guyana’s Office of Climate Change, Ministry of Natural Resources, and many other ministries representing water, agriculture, energy, finance, and more.

PDC’s Director of Global Operations Dr. Erin Hughey reinforced the critical necessity of partnerships in tackling the greatest challenges faced by disaster managers today, saying that it is not something that can be done alone. According to Hughey, the NDPBA is designed to be a true knowledge exchange, in which participants share knowledge and experiences, and learn from one another.

“There is no greater responsibility than there is today… we must use every tool at our disposal, exchange every piece of information, and give our full focus and attention to finding and making the best possible decisions. Our friends, families, and citizens are all counting on us,” said Hughey. “We want to thank you for allowing us to partner with you and join this effort in building a safer Guyana and a safer world.”

During the workshop, PDC provided a demonstration of its DisasterAWARE platform— showcasing its advanced modeling capabilities, mapping, and cross-sectoral data-sharing tools to support more effective response and planning.

The Civil Defence Commission expressed enthusiasm about the platform which will help Guyana target meaningful future investments in disaster risk mitigation using empirical data. The Commission plans to fully operationalize use of PDC’s DisasterAWARE system into its response and planning for all hazards. In addition, data produced from the baseline assessment will be integrated into the system to help Guyana better respond to those most affected, track resources and deploy them more effectively.

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