As long as the State of Emergency exists on Barbuda, all persons traveling to and from Barbuda to clean up or repair their homes or to participate in the general restoration and rebuilding process do not have to pay transport fees.
This was declared by Health and Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph on Monday (October 2nd, 2017) at a special meeting attended by members of the Barbuda Council and the Hurricane Response National Coordinating Committee.
Five of nine elected members of the Council, representing both the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and the Barbuda Peoples Movement, along with the Barbuda Parliamentary Representative, Hon. Arthur Nibbs were present at the specially convened meeting.
Notably absent was elected Barbuda Council member Trevor Walker, the leader of the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) and former Barbuda Parliamentary Representative.
All ten members of the Barbuda Council were invited to attend the meeting at the Ministry of Health & the Environment Headquarters.
The Hurricane Response National Coordinating Committee is chaired by Minister Joseph and is the coordinating agency for the cleaning up of Barbuda and for the repair and rebuilding effort. It is also responsible for mitigating environmental health risks on the island.
The Committee comprises as follows: Senior officials in the Ministry of Health & the Environment (including Permanent Secretary Walter Christopher, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealey Thomas, Chief Health Inspector Lionel Michael), Central Board of Health (CBH), Operations Officer in the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), Chairperson of the Barbuda Council Ms Knacynter Nedd, the Chair of the Health, Disaster and Social Welfare Committee of the Barbuda Council, Ms MacKiesha DeSuza, the Director of Public Works, National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), APUA, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society.
The special meeting evaluated the progress made in Phase One of the Clean Up and Restoration process and discussed plans for Phase Two when homeowners will clean out their homes and remove debris from their yards and when repairs on minimally damaged homes will begin.
Reports were submitted by Mr. Daryl Spencer, Acting Principal Public Health Inspector (in charge of Vector Control), Central Board of Health, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealey Thomas, Mr. Ian Bailey, Assistant Operations Manager, National Solid Waste Management Authority, Ms Ruleta Camacho Thomas, Deputy Chief Environment Officer, and Major Orlando Michael, Operations Officer, NODS.
With the lifting of the mandatory evacuation order for Barbuda, Major Michael pointed out that there are no longer restrictions on Barbudans returning to the island. He nevertheless proposed that the return be organized and conducted in stages. “We want the environment to be safe and secure for all. It is very easy for a disaster to follow a disaster, “he noted.
As more residents return to Barbuda, the Barbuda Council will assume a greater role in the restoration and recovery phase. The Council is expected to act as a liaison between returning residents and the health authorities. It will also be identifying those homeowners whose properties received limited damage during the passage of Hurricane Irma. It was suggested that this group should be the first to return to Barbuda. It is estimated that 120 to 150 structures are currently habitable in Barbuda. Before the hurricane, 1,082 structures were identified.
“It is important for the Council to communicate with the returning homeowners and to communicate their needs to the Ministry of Health, to Central Board of Health, to Solid Waste and to NODS, “said Minister Joseph at Monday’s meeting.
Council members engaged in spirited discussion with the Hurricane Response Committee and asked several questions with respect to the distribution of generators in private residences, removal of waste from private property, the functionality of the Hanna Thomas Hospital, and the return of residents.
The Health Minister, referring to the hospital, revealed that “the recommendation is for a brand new hospital but until we get there, we are incrementally building back the functionality of Hanna Thomas Hospital.”
Repairs are currently being made to the Community Centre in Codrington and upon completion, it will accommodate Barbudan workers who will remain on the island to take part in Phase Two clean-up operations. In addition, box tents with pre-fab walls will house more workers and another set of tents will be made available for persons returning to clean their residences.
Solid Waste and Barbuda Council workers will zone Codrington and assist residents with the cleaning of their premises. One hundred pairs of boots and 125 pairs of gloves were recently distributed to Barbudan workers to aid in the cleanup.