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Disaster preparedness: OECS-Direct Relief partnership to boost emergency medication supplies in the Eastern Caribbean

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Direct Relief have partnered to provide emergency medication supplies to OECS Member States in the event of natural disasters. Ahead of the hurricane season, the agreement signed between the organisations is critical to enhance post-disaster response.

Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules, and Officer in charge of the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (PPS), Abraham Weekes, met with Emergency Response Manager at Direct Relief, Daniel Hovey, to agree on the partnership which seeks to enhance post-disaster response in OECS Member States ahead of the hurricane season.

Since its creation in 1948, the US based organisation has commited to improve the health and lives of populations in emergency situations regardless of politics, religion, or ability to pay. Thus, Direct Relief has been providing humanitarian aid to over 100 countries to support vulnerable populations, especially in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes.

"Through this MOU we commit to support the OECS Member States in the event of a hurricane or other natural disasters. We will be able to immediately supply the affected countries with medicines that are identified by our local partners and sourced from our pharmaceutical donors in the US," Emergency Response Manager at Direct Relief Daniel Hovey explained.

Direct Relief collaborated directly with the Ministeries of Health in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Dominica after the path of the hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The humanitarian aid organisation assessed the needs of each country and was able to rapidly deploy medicine to local hospitals to support the post-disaster response, in spite of the challenges such as the closure of air and sea ports. Indeed, the organisation had prepositioned hurricane preparedness packs in multiple Caribbean countries to ensure that the population can access priority medical supplies in the very first hours following the passage of the hurricane.

The OECS PPS plays a critical role in negotiating and sourcing bulk medication to ensure that the citizens of OECS Member States are guaranteed the best possible essential list of medicines at the lowest possible price. OECS PPS will facilitate the collaborative work between Direct Relief and Health Ministries of the OECS Member States, as well as medical practitionners and pharmacists in each country to enable the quick implementation of emergency supplies ahead of the hurricane season.

This partnership forms part of the OECS' efforts to improve disaster preparedness and response in the Eastern Caribbean and complements the agreement signed in early June 2019 on Facebook Disaster Maps.