Washington DC - Religious and anti-poverty groups wrote to Congress this week for expedited support for hurricane-hit US Territories and Caribbean nations.
“The situation remains critical for hundreds of thousands of people across the Caribbean, for whom U.S. support—either through federal assistance or bilateral foreign assistance—constitutes critical support to meet both immediate and longer term needs,” said the Rev. John L.McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service.
“Recent hurricane activity strongly suggests that scientific predictions about climate change were – tragically – correct. If this is the ‘new normal’ as many now suggest, then we must all scale up our strategies. As faith agencies, we are called upon be in solidarity with our neighbors, with the vulnerable, at risk, impoverished and displaced. And how we show up to help our broader family is also a litmus test for how we will treat our own. In recent weeks, my organization has delivered tens of thousands of needed supplies to hurricane-affected communities in the U.S and Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. Congress must now also ensure that adequate assistance is provided to the Caribbean islands to get back on their feet.
"Seeing the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands so long after the hurricanes struck is incredibly sad," stated Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the religious development group, Jubilee USA Network. LeCompte just completed a tour of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands analyzing the recovery efforts. "It's important that the affected Caribbean islands get adequate relief to rebuild to withstand stronger storms."
These Caribbean islands – like other small islands worldwide – share a common and extreme vulnerability to climate change: Warming oceans, rising sea levels, higher frequency and intensity of Category 4 and 5 storms and flooding caused by extreme rainfall and drought already affect the livelihoods, homes, agricultural production, food security and very existence of several million people. In 1992, the United Nations recognized the Small Island Developing States, a special country grouping with distinct developmental challenges that require targeted responses. The upcoming UN Climate Conference, which started today in Bonn and will go on to the November 17, will be the first one to be presided over by a Pacific Ocean state. In recognition of the urgent need for action and adaptation, mitigation and finance by these states, Fiji will preside over the conference.
The wave of hurricanes in the Caribbean underline the need for better systems to deal with natural disasters of this magnitude. Religious groups are currently petitioning the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to stay debt payments for these countries, as well as to create the processes for moratoria on debt to be implemented automatically after similar disasters in the future. They are also petitioning sources of aid, like the U.S. government, to offer grants and not loans to struggling economies like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Available for interview: Eric LeCompte, Executive Director
Contact: Lydia C. Andrews, Deputy Director
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