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Press Release


  October 8, 2008

Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin today reaffirmed the commitment of the Organization of American States to supporting its member countries’ efforts to reduce the impact of natural disasters, appealing to the hemisphere’s citizens to educate themselves on how to respond to hurricanes and other natural hazards, and to take part in the awareness exercises.

Underscoring the importance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction being observed today, Ambassador Ramdin urged individuals to also be alert when information is being provided, “but most importantly, to make the effort to make the right choices in terms of where to build and where not to build.” He also made a pitch for observing the building codes so that roofs and other parts of buildings can sustain hurricane winds and other forces, thus mitigating damage as much as possible and making recovery much easier. “I hope that the people will not underestimate the impact of hurricanes.”

Only by working structurally on risk mitigation mechanisms and educating the people can we limit the impact of these natural hazards on the economies of the Americas, said Assistant Secretary General Ramdin. “It becomes even more critical to do this in the context of the other difficulties the region is already facing in terms of the food crisis, environmental crisis, energy problems, on top of the possibility of a financial problem across the Americas,” he added.

“We certainly want to remember today all the efforts the OAS and Member States are making in terms of mitigating and reducing the risk of hurricanes and natural disasters in general,” said Ambassador Ramdin, recalling natural disaster reduction as a longstanding OAS priority. He said it becomes all the more urgent given what is happening to smaller economies in the Caribbean, Central America, South America and North America, with the impact of climate change and what it means for the people; the impact of hurricanes and floods on peoples lives, countries, economic prospects.

“It is a day when member countries can take the opportunity to reflect on what is in place in terms of disaster mitigation mechanisms, as they look forward and see what needs to be done,” the OAS Assistant Secretary General remarked about the International Day for Disaster Reduction. He noted in that sense the huge difficulties facing Haiti after four hurricanes in a short period of time, and cited severe hurricane damage to Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Reference: E-385/08