Opening sentence misleading

On Wednesday, July 26, 2006 the Caymanian Compass printed an article on Dr. Pablo Suarez’s visit to the Cayman Islands titled Global Climate Changing Cayman.

The article opens with the following statement: ‘Residents of the Cayman Islands should be ashamed of themselves. Or so says Dr. Pablo Suarez, technical advisor for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Centre for Disaster Preparedness.’

The Cayman Islands Red Cross finds this opening statement not only deliberately misleading, but also potentially damaging to the outcome of Dr. Suarez’s visit, meant to spark a wider project (aimed at community empowerment and preparedness through skills building, training and dissemination of information).

Dr. Suarez has been a guest of the CIRC for the past five days. During that entire time his message has been very consistent: the climate is changing; there will be consequences for all of us who inhabit this planet: and we in the Cayman Islands need to examine what we are doing to contribute to this change, research what disasters put us at risk, and take steps to prepare so that we can minimize the negative impact on human life.

At no point did Dr. Suarez intend to antagonize the very people whom he was here both to inform and be informed by, and the way which this article opens does just that.

Dr. Suarez’s visit comes at a critical time for the CIRC, which has recently received funding from the Disaster Preparedness unit of the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid Office to embark on a community project in four local communities.

This is the first time in the history of the project that an Overseas Branch of the British Red Cross has been given such funding. The year-long project began on Tuesday with a workshop in Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment, a tool of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies aimed at helping communities to identify their risks, hazards they face, the resources that they possess and strengths of their community.

Dr. Suarez’s visit was a catalyst to this project as it added the very new and vital climate change component to the issue of disaster preparedness.

Take, for instance the South Asia tsunami. While scientists had the information about the tsunami two hours before it hit Indonesia, there was no local system in place to get the message to the people who would be affected and because of this, hundreds of thousands died.

Informational sessions, like the one that Dr. Suarez has been doing, are meant to begin to bridge that disconnect. It is meant to leave people more aware of the things that are happening, or happening with greater frequency and intensity, all in an effort to protect human life.

All of us who reside in these islands have become sensitive to outside experts coming in here and disrespecting us, and rightfully so.

But Dr. Suarez’s statements were misrepresented, and that is not only upsetting but irresponsible, given the wider context of which his presentations form a part – that of a community-based project that is meant to empower four very vulnerable communities within our Islands.

Jondo Obi

Branch Director, Cayman Islands Red Cross

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