Ministry of Health & Social Development
Release Date:
Tuesday, 19 March 2019 - 4:57pm



19TH MARCH 2019

Permanent Secretary,
Senior Government Officials,
Visiting delegates from the Caribbean Overseas Territories,
Representatives of multilateral humanitarian organizations, bilateral development agencies and Non-Profit Organizations,
Distinguished Guests

May I first wish you all a very pleasant morning. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here on the occasion of this seminal workshop, and to extend very warm greetings to our visiting guests on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands. I do hope that you will find time over the next few days to savor the hospitality of our people, not only on Tortola, but among our very beautiful Sister Islands as well.

It is rather encouraging to see so many persons from various local, regional and international organisations gathered in this room as we embark on this journey to learn from each other and chart a new course of seamless collaboration for the benefit of the people we serve.

As the new Minister for Health and Social Development I welcome this occasion to share lessons from our recent humanitarian responses; and I would especially like to thank the technical experts responsible for organising this event.

I speculate that delegates from abroad will experience the Virgin Islands from two different perspectives.  For persons visiting for the first time, or the first time in recent years, you may immediately notice the glaring damage to our infrastructure, landscapes and harbours caused by the severe storms of 2017.

On the other hand, those of you that were on the ground in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria may observe a Territory resolutely emerging stronger from the rubble of widespread devastation and seeming despair.

Whatever your perspective, we can all agree that the greatest hope for our small Territories when confronting challenges of such an overwhelming magnitude is to empower our people to rebuild their lives, and country, with dignity.

Dignity, empowerment, choice, accountability - these words often ring out in the debates and discussions surrounding the appropriateness and effectiveness of humanitarian responses to emergencies and disasters.

As a long-standing member of the Lions Club I have been actively involved in many feeding programmes and other relief services benefiting the less fortunate. I can well imagine the logistical complexity of attempting to determine and satisfy the diverse requirements of large numbers of disaster-affected households while ensuring that the most vulnerable are able to meet their basic needs.

Fortunately, cash-based humanitarian assistance has been proven effective internationally, and the 2017 storms provided the impetus for several Territories to make use of this modality to provide direct assistance to our people when they needed it most.

For this, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Red Cross, UK Government, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Antilles, Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) and the Social Development Department.

Building on solid partnerships, the watch word here in the Virgin Islands was ‘collaboration’ as these various organisations combined their resources for the efficient delivery of grants through a joint cash platform.

We discovered that, under the right circumstances, cash offers the opportunity to cut through and make a meaningful difference to people’s lives in a much quicker and more empowering way than before.

And so, I charge all of us to keep these themes of ‘partnership’ and ‘collaboration’ at the forefront as we build on these experiences to strengthen the nexus between humanitarianism, disaster risk management, and social protection.

Resources are limited, which therefore means that we must pursue action in an integrated and coherent way, as this is the strongest approach to achieving our objectives.  Working together we can find creative ways to combine our resources and expertise – across various sectors in-country, among Overseas Territories, throughout the Caribbean region, and with the support of the UK Government and international development partners.

The Government of the Virgin Islands will continue to undertake various capacity building activities to ensure that the Territory can apply the lessons of 2017 to create a shock-responsive Social Protection System through such initiatives as our Social Protection Policy Framework, Poverty and Vulnerability Mapping, and investments towards a Social Protection Information System.

These ideas will, no doubt, be further fleshed out over the course of the next three days and I look forward to the outcomes. As I now have the pleasure of declaring this workshop officially open, I pray that your deliberations will be productive and worthwhile.

Thank you for your attention.