A wet Christmas to end the year in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean

تم النشر: 4 فبراير 2014 15:11 CET

By: Rendal Allen St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross Society Communications Officer.

On 24 December, 2013, Christmas eve, some of the islands of the Lesser Antilles; Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, were hit by torrential rains spurred by a low level system passing over the region.  

Heavy rainfall caused several landslides, collapse of bridges and roads, as well as flooding across the island which resulted in 8 fatalities, several injuries and loss of households (a total of 55).  There was also significant damage to livelihoods, due to the flooding affecting livestock and crops.

As the rains increased and flooding spread across the country, Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) of the St. Vincent and Grenadines Red Cross Society (SVGRCS) were dispatched to the affected communities where they began conducting initial assessments.  Additionally,  by using prepositioned relief items, these teams began working with those affected in the initial response, distributing aqua tabs for safe water during water and food distributions, and raising awareness amongst the communities with regard to hygiene promotion.

Joyce Lewis, a resident of Peters Hope in St. Vincent who had no water from 25 December to 9 January as a result of the heavy rains and flooding, commented on the support being given by the SVGRCS “This will be very beneficial because it helps us save on gas because we won’t have to boil the water”. Another community member Vernonica Dabriel, 71 year old and a grandmother living together with 4 children, shared that she had been harvesting rain water to wash clothes, but that the water is collected in a neighbouring community called Layou some three miles away. “I am happy to get drinking water from Red Cross. It is the first time I have received bottled water”

There has also been a joint effort by the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and the SVGRCS to distribute relief items including water to assist the areas that had been rendered inaccessible by landslides. “The collaboration with NEMO has been essential to our response. Working together we have been able to create an agreed upon plan of action, that will allow us to attend the most urgent needs and continue towards the recovery process phase of this operation”, stated Anna-Maija Beloff,  Regional Disaster Management Coordinator for the Caribbean.

During the first hours of the emergency news spread via social media, which triggered an immediate outpour of donations from the general public locally and from the diaspora abroad.  Within a few short days a local community based group on the island of Bequia called Friends of Bequia which is part of Grenadine, were able to make a donation of twenty-seven barrels of food and clothing, along with several cases of bottled water.

Through these and other donations, as well as prepositioned relief items put in place in cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross, the SVGRCS was able to distribute 107 food parcels in five affected communities across the island in the course of one day. Help also came from the Barbados Red Cross who, in the true spirit of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and the fundamental principle of unity,  shared some prepositioned relief items with the SVGRCS.  “It has been heartening to see the response from other National Societies of the Caribbean Region, and their willingness to support the affected islands in any way they can”, acknowledged Mr. Marksman, Director General SVGRCS.  

Support has also come from The French Red Cross’s Regional Intervention Platform for the Americas and the Caribbean (PIRAC) that mobilized a water purification unit. “This unit will provide much needed support to relief activities as the SVGRCS will be moving from non-food and food item distribution to water distribution”, added Julia Simmons, Operation Coordinator SVGRCS.  Additionally, Coca Cola Co.  also showed support donating three containers of much needed water to the SVGRCS, in order to distribute clean and safe water to the affected communities.

Through its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund the IFRC has released 149, 440 (CHF) to support and facilitate ongoing response and recovery operations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as St. Lucia.  A Regional Intervention Team member Martha Tavera , specialist in Water and Sanitation is currently in St. Vincent in the Grenadines to support the training of volunteers, as well as Community Health Aide from the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment  to roll-out hygiene promotion and water and sanitation activities as part of the operation. 

As the response and recovery operation continues, the SVGRCS will continue to work towards completing evaluations and delivering aid, whilst planning together with communities, the best possible actions to assist them in their recovery process.