STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE RONNIE W. SKELTON
AT THE TWELFTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
THURSDAY 14TH DECEMBER, 2017
HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES RECOVERY UPDATES
Madam Speaker, as the Government of the Virgin Islands continues to work tirelessly to address the needs of the people of this Territory in the aftermath of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, I bring before this Honourable House updates on initiatives being spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
Madam Speaker, if we cast our minds back to September 7 when we discovered the unprecedented devastation inflicted on our homes and neighborhoods, and the large quantity of rubble left in the wake of damaging winds and flood waters, the task of restoring the sanitation and cleanliness of our communities seemed almost impossible to manage.
Yet we pulled together as One Virgin Islands and rose to meet the challenge. The Department of Waste Management has reported that the amount of debris collected from September to November is approximately 30,000 cubic yards which is equivalent to two years’ worth of waste. Madam Speaker, this was no easy feat.
I would like to recognise the profound efforts undertaken by each person, group or entity whether in the private, public, voluntary or philanthropic sectors that played a role in the clean-up efforts that got us where we are today.
Special mention must be made of the hard working men and women of the Department of Waste Management who continue to go beyond the call of duty to restore and maintain the cleanliness of our surroundings. Their work was aided by donations from the United Kingdom Department for International Development, which supplied the much needed equipment such as a car crusher, trucks, and wreckers that have made the process of collecting and processing bulky waste and debris more efficient and effective. We are also grateful for the technical support provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Waste Management Advisor, Dr. Tim Walsh.
An area of high priority is the removal of derelict or abandoned vehicles, which are not only unsightly, but unsafe.
To date the Department has issued a total of 367 notices and 310 vehicles have been collected in various communities throughout the Territory and there are many more to be collected.
Madam Speaker, the challenge does not end there but continues until the large quantities of waste being stored at various debris management sites have been safely disposed of. In this regard, negotiations are being finalized with Kausina VI to make arrangements for the exportation of derelict vehicles and other recyclable waste, as well as the disposal of non-recyclable waste by way of composting, landfilling and incinerating where feasible. This is being done at little to no net cost to the Government of the Virgin Islands.
Kausina VI’s team is currently comprised of twelve (12) industry expert analysts, four (4) operational managers and one (1) project manager. They have already begun working over the past few weeks and have dispatched a team of experts to assess our current situation at Cox Heath and all other debris management sites Territory-wide to determine the most effective and environmentally-friendly disposal methods. Once the debris disposal plan is agreed to by the parties, work is expected to commence immediately.
Madam Speaker, I take this time to remind the public to continue to follow the existing process for the collection and transportation of debris and bulky waste to the main dumpsites for disposal.
Madam Speaker, I would now like to highlight the on-going efforts to ensure that the delivery of health services is maintained at a high standard despite the recent damage sustained by the health sector.
Four community health clinics sustained substantial damage and remain closed while repairs to those facilities are being arranged. Primary healthcare services are being delivered from alternative sites; through mobile services; and home visits to residents previously served by the clinics located in Long Look, Sea Cows Bay, Cane Garden Bay, and Cappoon’s Bay. Repairs to the Jost Van Dyke Clinic began on December 1, thanks to the generosity of Kenny Chesney’s Love for the Love City Foundation, and are scheduled to be completed by the end of the month. In the Sea Cow’s Bay community, immunization and other health services are being delivered at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall, while in Cappoon’s Bay, Mrs. Brenda Smith’s residence is being utilized. On behalf of the Government, I extend our appreciation to these organisations and individuals for their kind generosity.
Madam Speaker, the BVI Health Services Authority also suffered damages to its fleet of vehicles, including an ambulance.
I am pleased to say that two new ambulances arrived in the Territory yesterday, which will help to improve the efficiency of emergency medical services.
Madam Speaker I must also place for the record my deep appreciation for the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) support to the BVI health sector. As part of a pledge of one million dollars towards the Territory’s recovery, PAHO has donated stocks of medical supplies, vector control equipment, and vehicles to support the work of the Environmental Health Division; and has also committed to carrying out repairs to the Adina Donovan Home, and the Virgin Gorda Elderly Home at the cost of half a million dollars.
Madam Speaker the thoughtfulness and generosity of numerous charitable organisations and individuals who have contributed their time, talent and material resources to help restore and maintain health and social services to the people of the Virgin Islands will long be treasured.
In this vein, Madam Speaker, I wish to publicly thank the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), VISAR and other local Non-Profit Organisations for their pledges of assistance towards the restoration of the BVI Autism Centre and Rainbow Children’s Home.
I also recognise the contribution made by the Sweet Redemptive Seventh-day Adventist Church to providing temporary accommodation for the BVI Services day programme for adults with special needs.
The staff of the Social Development Department working in collaboration with the Central Statistics Office, BVI Red Cross, Department of Disaster Management and other partners must also be commended for their excellent work in conducting household needs assessments and other social investigations. The data collected was used to inform the design of the Household Assistance Programme that will bring financial relief to over one thousand households, among other benefits.
Finally, Madam Speaker, I crave your indulgence as I turn my attention to the critical issue of Housing Recovery. The Ministry of Health and Social Development received a total of 366 applications for housing assistance, 134 of which have been verified and approved for release of available material so far. As additional funding becomes available the Ministry will seek to make further contributions of building materials and supplies towards unmet needs based on the assessment and verification of applications over the next two weeks.
Madam Speaker, as I have stated at the opening of my remarks the scale of structural damage caused by recent storms is unprecedented and therefore calls for innovative solutions across the whole society. The Government cannot do it alone, but we will not shy away from its responsibility to provide direct assistance to the most vulnerable members of society while partnering with other sectors and private property owners to support the repairs of the housing stock. I would like the public to know that their cries have not fallen on deaf ears and we empathise with the many households that remain displaced, particularly during the Holiday Season.
To respond to these concerns the Ministry has prepared a comprehensive Housing Recovery Policy and Plan. Vigorous efforts are underway to mobilise the resources needed to address the urgent need for temporary housing, rapid repairs, social housing, and permanent housing solutions through grants, soft loans and technical assistance.
Madam Speaker, in closing, I want to say that while we as a community have many challenges ahead us, our greatest strength is the resilience of our people. Let us redouble our efforts to work together, support one another, and seize the opportunity to build a better Virgin Islands for present and future generations. I thank you Madam Speaker.